Sexual Health Education Still Inadequate

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

TMO Editor’s Note:  The following is a very frank account of a woman’s experiences before her conversion to Islam.

By Karin Friedemann

sex_ed1There is a time in every girl’s life that she looks to her mother for guidance. That time may pass, so it’s important to capitalize upon this moment. When I was eleven, I asked my mother if I should save my virginity for marriage. She answered me with the standard answer of modern America, “I don’t care what you do, just don’t get pregnant.” This was very unfortunate because I had been reading religious literature aimed at teens advising them not to have sex. I was willing to consider it. I was eleven, and my mother threw me to the wolves.

By the time I was 15 I got my first STD, chlamydia. When I was 19, I contracted HPV and herpes that took me years to overcome. Although youths in school are warned about deadly diseases like AIDS, nobody actually mentions how many bacteria, yeasts and fungi, or viruses are spread around through sexual intercourse every time. That point needs to be stressed: every time you have sex, you expose yourself to someone else’s bacteria, fungi and viruses, which are always there even if not to the point of causing immediate disease symptoms.

I think the reason I didn’t use condoms as often as I should have was because of my deep down conservative values. Even at 15, I truly wanted a child. I wanted someone to love me and take care of me so that I could have a child. In some countries I could have been married but that was not my fate.

All I can say now in my comfortable middle age is that it doesn’t matter if you are 20 or 40. Even a brief stray into the realm of casual dating could cause you to become infected with a disease. That disease could take you months or years to overcome through lifestyle changes and diet and prayer.

Do not underestimate the value of your chastity. Marriage is a hard road, but there is no comfort and security in casual dating. Marriage might cost you thousands in a divorce, but that is better than ten years of searing pain in your genitals. What people don’t understand is that disease is almost guaranteed when you have sex with a non-chaste person. 35% of Americans have some form of herpes. 80% have been exposed to HPV, which can lead to cancer. Even condoms can cause yeast infections. Vaginal strep infections are as common as step throat, but the bacteria can spread into the uterus and beyond.

So what do we do if we have already messed up and now we are facing the consequences? We invited poisoned people into our lives and we invited these diseases to take root inside our bodies. We have to take responsibility for that, and then we need to ask the Lord for forgiveness so that we can forgive ourselves, because disease flourishes in an environment of unresolved conflict.

We were given these challenges to DARE us to jump-start our lives and immune systems. I think when we become depressed or we hold anger inside we can get sick because people who should have been there for us were not. Even way before we noticed it like when a crisis came up. But nobody stopped us from loving ourselves but our own damaged belief systems especially the outdated belief that we need someone else to take care of us other than Allah.

For a newborn child, being loved is the same as life. If a newborn child were abandoned, he or she would die. It is totally natural for our bodies to associate lack of loving affection with impending death. As adults we have to stop waiting for affection if it is not forthcoming. That state of waiting will kill us. We are not helpless. It is just our baby self that is helpless. Even though we may have been abandoned, we would never abandon our child. And yet, we may still need help to care for our inner child. Imagine if you found a starved, abandoned baby. You would call someone.

As parents, in addition to giving compassionate advice, the best thing we can do to protect our children from viruses, bacteria and fungi however contracted is to make sure our family eats well. It can be hard to convince a teenager to eat anything at all, given society’s emphasis on calorie counting. However, the best we can do is to help our children associate food with good feelings and warm memories of togetherness. Eating disorders resulting in life long nutritional deficits that lower the immune system can be traced back to unhealthy emotions at the family dinner table, or the lack of any family dinner. Ultimately, a person’s ability to fight disease rests on his past history of healthy eating habits and a deep reservoir of love to draw upon in times of need.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer.

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Be Yourself

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

A friend is someone who gives you strength. A friend is someone who makes you feel better after you see them or talk to them. A friend is happy because you are happy and a friend is upset when you are upset. So why is it so hard to find a friend in this world? Why is it so hard to give and receive love?

I have been communicating with a large number of women who are in despair because they feel like they invested so much – or gave up so much – for their marriage relationship: dropped out of college, quit their job, had X amount of kids, cleaned the house, cooked the food, did the bookkeeping… You would think that the least her husband could do would be to love her back!!! Flow some love, man!

Why does the dream of love appear so unattainable, even though it is as vital to our survival as food? It seems like the harder we work to please someone, the more sacrifices we make for someone, the less they love us. We get stuck in this situation where we are trying to be with someone, while they are judging us about whether they think we are good enough to merit their affection. This type of unhealthy dynamic is not limited to marriage. It can happen at work, at school, and in our social lives.

Some people start to think that it’s not even worth trying to love anyone anymore because no one ever loves you back – even those who are way too young to give up hope. Many of us at the prime our lives waste our youth and middle age in despair. Reality check: Either try something new that you haven’t thought of before, or else just give up for now and be patient. Be yourself. “Let them come to you,” said a very wise Iranian woman on Facebook.

If someone stresses you out to the point where you are becoming overwhelmed, just stay away. If you can’t avoid them, try to dwell on other thoughts. Make them a small part of your life. You can’t let other people “get to you.” If someone is upsetting you to the point where you cannot eat or sleep or concentrate because you are so upset, this is a sign that this is not a healthy relationship.

The Prophet Mohammed (s) advised that we should go towards a situation that gives us inner peace, and stay away from a situation that creates huge fluctuations in mood. When we become emotionally attached to someone that repeatedly causes us to have great hopes, and then totally disappoints us, this is a huge emotional drain that will affect not only our mood, but our ability to provide for everyone who depends on us. If we are clinging to such a person, we will become completely debilitated and useless.

When we try our best to be what someone else needs, we become less of ourselves. Less of a person to love. Sometimes we even become resentful. Ultimately, we become less lovable. We are not being the best we can be for the sake of God.

You can only be truly loved if you are totally being yourself. You can never truly love someone else unless you look at the other person as a unique person within their own unique situation.

A lot of people have a list of criteria for their potential mate. But our neediness gets in the way of true love. This list of wants gets in the way of viewing the Other as a human being. Because guess what. There is no human being out there that was specifically created to fulfill your needs. Human beings are not commercial products or drugs you can buy in order to solve your problems. Every person has their own Path they need to walk. God gives us what we need. No single person or situation can ever do that for us.

Choosing a mate or friend is not the same as looking for an apartment. If you look at someone else as a means to need-fulfillment, they will feel exploited. Likewise, if someone came up to you and said, “This is what I need. This and this and this. Can you do it?” – you would hardly fall in love with them.

We have to be ourselves, and let other people be themselves, and observe. Does it make sense for us to spend more or less time together? Do we enhance each others’ strengths or exacerbate each others’ weaknesses?

We can never have a true friendship or find true love unless we go beyond the question of “Do you meet my needs?” On the other hand, if we are getting nothing out of a friendship or marriage other than anguish, it may be time to detach. It must be a matter of the balance of respect for each other. It takes two people making an effort to have a relationship.

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