On Becoming A Woman Chapter 18

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Chapter 18

Physically Fit

We are almost done with this goddamn book. Soon, I will create a poll on Facebook. If you are not a part of the Ex SDA Facebook group, I’ll post a list of options on the blog, and you may comment on the post. I had a whole list somewhere of books I wanted to do, but I put it in a special safe spot. So of course I’ll never see it again. If you have any suggestions for books you’d like me to do, please comment either on a thread in the X-box or on this post.

If you have any books you’d like to send me in order to review them, message me privately.

Florence Lastname was 12 years old, and in the 8th grade. She had always received high marks in her classes.Her parents had taken considerable pride in her accomplishments, and Florence herself derived quite a bit of pleasure from being the youngest pupil in her class. But during the school year Florence had not felt well. She had been absent from school for a day or two on several occasions, and her grades were not so high as usual.

Is Florence experiencing burnout? Sounds like the girl has a lot to live up to. In any case, It’s Florence’s teacher who notices that something’s up, so she talks to Florence’s parents.

Florence’s father’s first reaction was, “I think Florence needs to study more. I have noticed lately that she seems to be losing interest in her studies.”

Florence’s father sounds like part of the problem. Perhaps the child is getting burned out. In any case, other than that Florence’s symptoms are:

  1. Fatigue, not having enough energy
  2. Thin and pale looking
  3. Lack of appetite
  4. Frequent nosebleeds
  5. Is nervous and irritable
  6. Headaches, backaches, chest and joint pain
  7. Inability to sleep

All of which sound like signs of extreme stress to me. Perhaps Florence is getting exhausted from trying to live up to her father’s clearly high expectations? In any case, Florence’s parents and I both agree she should see a doctor, and I’d be willing to put $50 on the fact that Florence saw one who’s last name rhymes with “Cock.” I sincerely hope that the last name given is not her real last name, or that Shryock sought her permission to include the story.

So anyway, Florence goes off to the doctor, and isn’t too happy about the fact that her father is insisting on going along.

Florence was a little embarrassed to have her father accompany them, but he explained that he wanted to go along to make sure that she had a thorough examination. On the side, he told Mrs. S— that he was really quite anxious over Florence’s condition, and wanted to have a talk with the doctor after the examination, in the hope of getting a clearer understanding of just what Florence’s trouble was.

Sometimes teenagers don’t want their parents along on doctor’s appointments. Perhaps Florence’s problems are something she doesn’t want her father knowing about? I get that confidentiality with minors is iffy, but as long as she’s not going to kill herself, she should have a right to refuse having her father and the doctor discuss her medical problems like that. In case you’re tempted to think that her father is only acting like this because he cares, wait till we get a few paragraphs in. His issue is absolutely that he is trying to get into Florence’s personal shit.

If we had any doubt that Shryock was the doctor this girl went to see, that doubt is removed by this paragraph:

The doctor was a kindly person. He seemed to understand teenagers as well as adults.

Well no shit, Doctor. Most pediatricians do. That’s kind of their job.

In any case, the doctor talks to Florence.

He first took a complete history and found out about the various illnesses that Florence had had. Then he inquired into her real reasons for coming to him at this time. Mr. And Mrs. S—- filled in where Florence left off, and told the doctor how she had been tired and sleepless, had a poor appetite, had pains in various parts of her body, and seemed to have lost interest in her studies and things in general.

Did poor Florence get any time alone with the doctor? Couldn’t she have explained this to him herself? And is it just me or do these things all sound a little bit like they could be depression? They’re not exactly textbook symptoms, but they’re close.

In any case, afterward the doctor gives Florence a complete physical, including bloodwork.

The doctor tells the family that a lot of girls around Florence’s age have similar symptoms to Florence. He says he doesn’t think there’s cause for worry at this point, however, if nothing is done, they could lead to serious diseases. He doesn’t say which diseases those are. The Doctor is confident that if Florence cooperates with his program, she’ll make a full recovery.

“….general vitality runs lower at that time when a girl is maturing into womanhood. Florence has been growing in height for the last several months. Certain of her organs have recently developed and have begun to function. This rapid physical development constitutes a considerable drain on the vital forces….I understand that Florence began to menstruate about 6 or 7 months ago. The process of menstruation is, in itself, an additional drain on her vitality….Human beings are so constituted that their expenditure of energy is about as great in the realm of the emotions as in physical activity. Therefore, part of the reason why Florence is tired is that she has been carrying her full load of studies at school in addition to working out this adjustment within her own personality.”

So, her condition is more or less caused by stress, then. I have heard that fast growing teens can have aches and pains, but I’ve never experienced them myself. In any case, I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say for sure if Florence should be evaluated for depression. And maybe that just wasn’t a thing that was done for teenagers in the 1960s, I don’t know.

The doctor also says that Florence is slightly anemic. This in and of itself isn’t serious, and is apparently quite common around menarche. He provides Florence with iron tablets, which from what I know about anemia sounds about right.

Then the doctor talks to Florence about having a well rounded health program. The importance of sleep, the importance of physical activity…. ok doc, but Florence hasn’t been able to sleep, and she’s been so tired that physical activity is difficult for her. What do I know, though, I’m nowhere near being a doctor.

In any case, the doctor lectures her on good health habits. Florence agrees to follow his instructions about healthy living.

As the doctor finished his discussion…Mr. S— asked whether he might see the doctor alone for a moment… Mr. S— said, “Doctor, I have always understood that some of these illnesses that bother teenage girls and boys are more imaginary than real. Please tell me frankly whether you think Florence’s troubles are in her head, or whether she is really physically sick.”

Oh jeez, really?

There are a lot of teens who’s “troubles are in their heads.” But does that make those problems any less real? It sounds like Mr. S— doesn’t believe in mental illness actually being a thing. His attitude is harmful, but not just because it hurts people with mental illnesses. This attitude is harmful because sometimes a doctor honestly can’t figure out why his patient is so sick. But that doesn’t mean that the patient’s problems are in his or her head. It just means science hasn’t caught up with you yet.

I’m not saying that Florence did have depression. That’s not for me to diagnose over the internet. I’m saying that if my daughter came to me with these symptoms, I would also want a mental evaluation done as well as a physical.

To the doctor’s somewhat credit, he says that Florence doesn’t have an “imaginary illness,” and that a lot of girls her age go through the same thing.

“This matter of functional disease and imaginary sickness is interesting, to say the least. The teenagers who suffer from imaginary sicknesses are usually those who have found it difficult to make a proper adjustment to life. If a young person’s parents are not sympathetic, or if he is not getting along well in school, or is not well received by other young people, his health may be undermined and the foundation laid for functional disease.”

By “functional disease” does he mean mental illness like depression? It sounds like he’s using this phrase as synonymous with “imaginary illness.”

All the things the doctor mentioned in this paragraph can indeed trigger depression. However, I think we do others a disservice when we portray depressed people this way. Doing this silences people who may have depression yet are well liked by their peers, have sympathetic parents, and do well in school. Environment only goes so far, sometimes genetics are just going to be sucky regardless.

I get that depression wasn’t understood as well in the 1960s as it is now, however, people still understood enough to know that “mental illness” was not synonymous with “imaginary illness.” This is also a really good example of why books written more than 50 years ago need to be updated before being presented to a 21st century audience. Our understanding of mental illness has changed a lot since 1968.

The doctor is still speaking to Mr. S—

“Some of these forms of imaginary sickness are very convenient for young people who are poorly adjusted. This kind of illness offers an excuse for not getting along well in life.  It is as though the young person could then say, ‘See, I am sick. You will have to excuse me from the usual responsibilities of life.'”

Right. My depression is soooooo convenient for me. Maybe some people use their depression as an excuse, but I would be careful saying that about someone. You don’t know if that’s what a person is doing, and this attitude is so harmful to those who do have a mental illness. There are some days I really can’t leave the house. There are some days I can’t answer the phone without bursting into tears and melting into a puddle of anxiety. And I’m considered high functioning because 9 times out of ten I make myself leave the house anyway.

I am getting help for it, but we have yet to find a treatment that actually helps.

And contrary to what Adventists would like to believe, you can’t cure depression with the health message. It’s possible to improve it slightly with health related things, but I have tried so hard to cure depression just by following what Adventists consider basic health principles.

The author goes on for a few pages about the importance of exercise. A well rounded person needs physical and mental activity. Getting good exercise allows a girl to face life with courage, and to develop skills that will allow her to say, “I succeeded in this, that means I can also succeed in the more difficult endeavors of life.”

The second most important part of good health is getting enough sleep. The author argues that most teens don’t get enough sleep because they do more studying than they do exercising, and they like to stay up late and do things that are interesting.

I’m sure it was different in the 60s, but most teens I knew stayed up late because they needed to study. Have you seen the amount of homework teenagers are burdened with today? It’s crazy. It’s also another rant so moving on.

It is better to retire early and rise early than to retire late and then “sleep in” the next morning.


I mean, I get why: Ellen White said so. But the author doesn’t even say that. He just drops this and then moves on to explaining that afternoon naps are a thing, but they should never last too long and that there is danger in naps because they can take away from a good night’s sleep.

He just drops this one thing and then moves on really quickly to something I can’t disagree with. It’s like he’s expecting us not to notice that he’s totally pulling things out from Ellen White, here. As long as you get enough hours of sleep, does it really matter when you get them?

Shryock goes on for another few paragraphs about the benefits of sleep, and it’s nothing that hasn’t been confirmed by modern science.

The author then moves on to nutrition. Now, Adventists and the real world disagree on what constitutes good nutrition. Adventists, in general, do not agree with eating meat. This differs regionally, and is a generalization that not everyone identifies with. But vegetarianism is a big deal, at least in Michigan, and Adventists are the creators of this:

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And this:

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And this:

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(MorningStar may no longer be an SDA company, but it was started by Adventists. You’re welcome. You’re also welcome for Cornflakes.)

Adventists have a lot of weird hangups about food, and definitely think they place a high value on nutrition. However, this is only true as long as that nutrition is in harmony with what Ellen White teaches.

I should really do a blog post about SDA food hangups at some point.

In any case, Shryock tells teens in this book that they should go study up on nutrition from another source. He doesn’t want to focus on it, and I wonder if he actually did but his editor told him to trim it down a little. So Shryock talks about how bad candy is before moving on.

Most teenagers know that some foods are digested slower than others. These “heavier” foods should be eaten early during the day, and not for the evening meal…..during sleep the stomach’s activities are normally curtailed. Sound sleep and a full stomach simply do not go together.

I can’t recall now which Ellen White book I read this in. Probably Counsels on Diet and Foods. I have no idea if this is actually a scientific thing, or just an Ellen White thing. Either way, it’s news to me. It wasn’t talked about in my nutrition classes at all.

 With respect to the amount of food, the average teenage girl is in more danger of eating too little food than of eating too much.

How stereotypical. As a teenager, I ate a metric fuckton of food. It’s not just teenage boys that eat the parents out of house and home.

Here, though, is something the author and I can agree on:

Many teenage girls have become oversensitive to the possibility of becoming fat. Among many girls it is considered smart to go on a reducing diet. Of course, I recognize that some people are too heavy, and that they therefore should try to reduce. But most teenage girls are not too heavy. Only as a reducing diet is prescribed and controlled by a physician is it safe for a teenager.

He then goes on to talk about it being a bad idea to eat between meals. Most snacks are junk food, and junk food is bad for you because it teaches you to crave unhealthy food.

The author doesn’t really have a sense of balance at all. He doesn’t seem to understand that some junk food is ok sometimes, but only in small doses.

Eating between meals decreases the efficiency of the organs of digestion. Our digestive organs are not adapted to continuous eating. They are designed, rather, to function in cycles, one meal passing out of the stomach before the next one enters.

I’ve read conflicting things about this. Some sources say it’s ok to snack throughout the day on healthy things, and others say that the above paragraph is correct. What matters, however, is that Ellen White agrees with Shryock.

Shryock then goes on for a few paragraphs about how important it is not to neglect our health. When we neglect our health, we’re more likely to catch diseases and less likely to be happy overall.

And he’s not wrong, it is a good idea to take care of yourself. But his idea of taking care of yourself and the rest of the world’s idea of taking care of yourself may or may not be two totally different things.

This is the penultimate chapter of the book. I can’t wait for the next chapter, in which we will discuss the most important topic ever: religion.






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