Monday, December 24, 2012

The cost of health

The topic of health care is on a lot of our minds especially with talks of the US getting Universal Health Care.  There are many teens who don’t have health insurance, who can’t afford paying for a doctor’s visit or don’t want their parents to know they went to the doctors. There are various reasons to go to the doctor, from a simple check up to pregnancy testing. The access to medical care for teens is hard for many, one volunteer said, “I’m nineteen years old so the medical care I had through the state ran out because I’m no longer a minor, but my employer’s health care plan is way too expensive for me to pay for.” So what do you do when you are in a situation where you can’t afford to go visit the doctor? That’s a good question! 
There is a website called Washington Free Clinics Association this website has all of the no fee clinics in Washington. The clinics on the website are non-profit clinics and mostly faith-based, but that does not exclude people who do not believe in the same belief. One clinic in Seattle is called Country Doctor Youth Clinic, this clinic is a no fee clinic just for youth they do simple check-ups, STI testing, pregnancy testing, contraception they also have a variety of other services they provide.  A question you may have is “What if I don’t want my parents to know I am getting tested for pregnancy or STI’s?” In the state of Washington you can get STI testing and mental health treatment at the age 13 without your parents consent. You can also get pregnancy testing at age 12 without parents consent. Another great place that is low cost or free, is the Teen Clinic, it’s a confidential non-judgmental clinic geared towards sexual health for teens. They provide services like STI/HIV testing, pregnancy testing, various forms of contraceptives. No matter what the health needs you have, it’s important to see the doctor and there are resources for everyone out there, even for teens who can’t afford to see the doctor.

You can always contact Teen Link for more resources at 1866TEENLINK (833-6546).

Washington Free Clinic Association

Country Doctor Youth Clinic
Teen Clinic

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Consent is more than just sexy

When you enter a relationship, a partnership or a marriage, it always starts with a question. Will you be my significant other? Will you be my domestic partner? Will you marry me? Relationships start with consent, and sex is no different. Whether you’re waiting until marriage, waiting for the right partner or already sexually active, consent is and will be important.
Unfortunately, sexual education rarely mentions consent, and even more, rarely emphasizes it. We learn how to protect our bodies, how to avoid STDs, how to prevent pregnancy, and how to know when you’re ready for sex. But when sex becomes part of a casual or romantic relationship, it’s not just about our bodies and our needs and our wishes, it’s about you and your partner’s body and needs and wishes. It’s about consent.
Consent ensures that you and your partner are sharing a fun experience. Consent ensures that your partner doesn’t feel uncomfortable. Consent ensures that your partner wants to have sex.

So, what does consent look like?
Consent is voluntary. It’s saying yes to sex because you want to, not because your partner wants you to. You have the right to wait until you’re ready, even if that means until marriage.
Consent is enthusiastic. It’s “YES! I want to.” You can feel certain and safe in your decision.
Consent is informed. It’s being able to make an informed decision about having sex. You’re awake and sober and aware of your actions.
Consent is a process. It’s choosing what you want to do and when you want to stop. You can consent to oral sex without consenting to other kinds of sex.
Consent is dynamic. It’s able to be withdrawn. You can consent to sex in the morning but not consent at night.
Consent is earned. It’s never automatic. You are never owed sex, and you never owe anyone else sex, regardless of your relationship status.

How can you make sure you and your partner both consent?
Use your words. The best way to know if your partner wants to have sex is to ask. A simple “Would you like to do [sexual thing] right now?” works. If your partner says no, respect their decision. Remember that “maybe” or “not now” doesn’t mean “yes.”
Talk it out beforehand. Before having sex, talk about your expectations. What are your boundaries? What are your partner’s boundaries? What are your turn-ons? What are your partner’s turn-ons? How can you make your partner feel comfortable? Talking about it might seem awkward, but knowing your partner’s likes and dislikes will make sex more enjoyable.
Talk it out during. Especially if it’s your first time with this partner, or with any partner, you won’t always know what parts of sex you like and don’t like. If something makes you uncomfortable, tell them. If you want to do 
something different, tell them.

Read their body language during. If your partner is afraid of hurting you, they might have sex even when they don’t want to. Rely on their body language to tell you if they want to have sex. A partner who just lies there, seems upset, avoids eye contact or is tense, might not be consenting. If you notice this, stop and ask them if they really do want to have sex.

Also, if you ever want to talk to someone your own age more about all of this, if you have any questions, fears or just need to talk, Teen Link is open every night from 6 - 10 p.m. We have an online chat service, or you can call us at 866.TEEN.LINK or 866.833.6546.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Real Deal About Sex

What’s it like being a teenager? Confusing, Tiring, Confusing, Busy, Confusing, Fun… The list could be infinite (or not) . But amidst all the confusion, mixed feelings, the wrong and the right choices, there are some signs sent by yours truly (TeenlinkJ) to guide you about the one thing that comes on your mind 34.2 times a day for you boys and 18.6 for you girls: SEX
  • 70% of people have had sex for the first time as teenagers
Wow. Those facts might have hit you hard, like an F on a final or you might have shrugged them off because you don't feel like they apply to you, but the fact of the matter is that there is a similarity with every single one of these facts: teens. Teens like you and me. Your stance on these facts, whether it be yay or nay, it is important for teens to be educated about sex and sexual health because these are two very relevant aspects of our life.  Hold on, you might say- this doesn’t apply to me at all. Think again- expand your circle to not just you, but maybe your rebellious sister or even your friend in a committed long term relationship. Also, maybe it doesn't apply to you now, but this knowledge and information that will apply to you at some point in your life. Knowing about sexual health is one life lesson that you will actually need, unlike a lot of the useless information we get in school. And I don't know about you, but I would rather be prepared than look like an idiot, or have something bad happen to myself or one of my friends. So make sure you and the people you care about have someone or somewhere to turn to with questions (Teenlink J). 

*Did you know that you can get FREE testing for STDs/STIs, pregnancy, get FREE contraceptives (condoms, birthcontrol, plan B, the implant,etc.), AND talk with professionals about your options in a safe and CONFIDENTIAL (like you don't need parents permission and parents don't even have to know) way at Public Health Centers all over King County for FREE!!! I don't know if you picked up on this, but all of the services are FREE And CONFIDENTIAL for teens!  Check it out! 

The more we know about ourselves and our bodies, the easier it makes it to stay safe and have fun with our relationships. You know what they say, knowledge is power, and being knowledgable about your body and how to take care of it is not only powerful, it is also sexy.   

For more information on this topic check out MTVs website. They have some awesome information about how and why it is important to get tested, how to talk to your partner(s), and the real deal about relationships.

Also, if you ever want to talk to someone your own age more about all of this, if you have any questions, fears, or just need to talk, Teen Link is open every night from 6-10pm. We have an online chat service or you can call us at 866TeenLink or 866.833.6546.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Inclusive Metaphors for Sex
We've all heard the baseball metaphors for sex, whether we know it or not.  1st, 2nd, and 3rd base are the most popular, but there are more. You've probably heard of "scoring", "hitting a home run" and "striking out" as well.  This metaphor even runs deeper than the physical act of sex, and those who are gay or lesbian are referred to as "playing for the other team".          This metaphor places value in "getting to a base" but sex isn't something you can "get" and it shouldn't be the point of a relationship, the way scoring is the point of a game. Another way that this metaphor is flawed is that a baseball game is between two teams who are working against each other, and sex really shouldn't be that way because it implies that only one "wins." The formula of baseball also doesn't fit because you can't skip around from base to base, but have to follow a precise pattern, and even more than that, a set of rules where certain actions can give the other "team" an advantage over you, which really sends the wrong message about sex.  Finally, baseball is only for the young, able bodied players at the top tier of their level.  Any metaphor for sex should be all-inclusive, and account for everyone.

          Al Vernacchio, M.S.Ed., a high school teacher, teaches a class on sexuality, and has suggested an alternate, and better, metaphor for sex.  This is the pizza metaphor.          People can eat pizza just because they want to, or decide that you don't want it at all. You don't have to schedule a time place for it, and there are many different kinds of pizza you can choose from.  You can choose 1 slice and feel full for the rest of the day, have a whole pie to yourself, or eat some, then come back for seconds later in the day.  You can also eat pizza with anyone you want.  You could have it with your partner, but alone is fine too. Pizza also comes with different toppings, and you can put whatever you want on it. The goal when you're with a partner, is to find a group of toppings you both like.

          The most important reason that pizza is a better metaphor for sex is that you would never order a pizza without discussing what you want on your pizza with the person you're sharing it with.  You talk about what you like, and what kinds of things you really don't like or won't eat. Communication and negotiation are very important before beginning a sexual relationship.  You should know your partner's preferences and they should know yours.  This will lead to a safer and, ultimately, more satisfying experience for both of you.

If you like this metaphor, and want to read the original article or visit the website, here is the link.  The article was written by Carly Dreyfus in 2010 to

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rudolf and the Grinch Teach Us How to Be Different

Rudolf and the Grinch Teach Us How to Be Different

We’re all different. Every single person on this planet is different, and sometimes, people exclude and bully people because of their differences. Sometimes it’s the color of skin, sometimes it’s clothes, sometimes it a sexual preference, and sometimes, it’s a glowing red nose. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a common holiday character, was excluded and made fun of because he was different than all the other reindeer. That isn’t to say all the other reindeer weren’t different than each other, because they undoubtedly were, Rudolph’s difference was just more pronounced. Because Rudolph’s difference was more pronounced, the other reindeer ostracized him, made him feel different in a bad way. They made him feel worthless. However, Rudolph was able to rise above the bullying he received from his peers; he stayed strong despite the bullying, and Santa recognized that Rudolph’s nose was a strength and something to be proud of, rather than to be ashamed of. Santa asks Rudolph to lead to his sleigh with his glowing nose, and all the other reindeer realize that they were wrong to have made fun of Rudolph because he was different. Differences aren't bad; in fact, they are often what make us special.
Another common holiday character is the Grinch, who was also bullied and ostracized by his peers. Many of us know the Grinch as a negative, hateful character, but he wasn’t always that way, and he certainly didn’t stay that way. The Grinch grew up as a small happy and loving boy, but, like Rudolph, he was made fun of because he looked different than everyone else. Other kids wouldn’t play with him, and even adults made fun of him. The Grinch eventually couldn’t take it anymore and he went up to live in the mountains. The Grinch felt so shunned by society that he decided to isolate himself even more. The Grinch lashed out at the society and the people that had put him through so much misery. The part of him that was so wounded appeared as hate and negativity.

One day, however, a small girl changes the Grinch through one small gesture; she reaches out her hand to him in kindness. She doesn’t treat him like a monster, but instead extends the same love and friendship that she believes everyone deserves. Her actions are transformational, and the Grinch changes back into the person he used to be - - inside, he becomes that kind and loving boy again.

Bullying isn’t always intentional, it can be as simple as making fun of a friend for wearing something they normally wouldn’t or not talking to certain people because we don’t want to associate ourselves with difference and also be left out. This form of exclusiveness is pervasive and hurts even the ones who are perpetuating it. Whenever we chose to pick on someone, talk behind their back, leave someone out, ignore someone, or even not stand up for someone we are not acting with integrity and we can feel it. I think this is especially true, when we are doing this to people who haven’t done anything to us or to people who are more vulnerable. We know it is wrong. When we continue to engage in this behavior or remain silent while others are saying things it does not feel good and it usually comes back to haunt us. So next time you see or do something that you feel is compromising your integrity, remember the story of Rudolf and of the Grinch, and do something different.

Bullying comes in a lot of forms, and often people are bullied because they are different than others. But everyone is different, in one way or another, and differences are something to be proud of, and not something to be ashamed of. Differences make our society innovative, diverse, and adaptive. Differences also challenge us to look outside of the box and open our eyes to new possibilities. However, this being said, it can be hard to hold up the banner of difference. It is difficult to embrace and feel proud of your own uniqueness when others around you do not celebrate it.
If you are ever being bullied or feel like you are being excluded
because you are different, or even if you want to offer a helping hand to help someone out of a bad situation and you want help knowing how to do it, feel free to call Teen Link.

Teen Link is a peer-to-peer confidential and non judgmental emotional help hotline, open every night from 6-10pm, at 1-866-833-6546. The volunteers on the lines are teens that are the same age as you and go through lots of training to be able to support callers around anything that might come up. At Teen Link we celebrate difference and respect the bravery it takes to be different. We also acknowledge the courage it takes to reach out for help, but we want you to know that you are not alone and we are always here to listen.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Under Pressure: How Our Bodies Respond to Stress and Tips to Fight Back

Under Pressure: How Our Bodies Respond to Stress and Tips on How to Fight Back

It is that time of year again. The holiday season is right around the corner, but it is hard to see the lights when our vision is clouded over by homework, final projects, and exams. Can’t it just all be done already!

Stress! You all know what I am talking about— that queezy feelings in your stomach, tight muscles, soar neck, or eye twitching sensation that comes over us when we are lacking on sleep, energy, and TIME!  We always think of stress as an emotion, when really it is something that affects our whole bodies.

I wanted to better understand what was happening in my body when stress started to take over and what I could do to make it more easy to manage.  So I decided to do some research and here is what I found.

The Nuts and Bolts of Stress

From my investigations I learned that stress is actually an evolutionary response that is there to help us respond and deal with challenges or changes in our environment. In this way, stress isn’t always a bad thing. It can give us the boost we need to get things done or to conserve our energy when times are tough. However, in the long term stress can start to lose its positive effects and really ware us out. So what exactly is happening in our bodies when we are under stress.

The Bodies Response to Stress
Whether it be a fight with your parents, an overwhelming amount of homework, or a recent break up, our brain is quick to sound the alarm, “ALERT, ALERT! We need back up!”  When we experience stress, signals are sent from our brain out into our bodies, activating our sympathetic nervous system and releasing chemicals called adrenaline and cortisol. When this happens, our body goes into action mode— our heart rate skyrockets, our blood pressure rises, we begin to sweat, our breath quickens, our muscles tighten, and all of our senses are on full alert. These changes put us into, what they call, “fight or flight” mode, so that we can react quickly and efficiently to difficult or dangerous situations.  This is called a stress response. When this stress response is triggered occasionally and we know how to use it to our advantage, it can be really helpful, but if these feelings of stress continue over a longer period of time, our bodies start to show some significant signs of stress overload.

Watch for the following symptoms or warning signs that stress is taking over:
ü       Memory and concentration problems
ü       Impulsiveness or irrational thinking
ü       Constant worry or anxiety
ü       Feeling irritable, moody, or wanting to lash out at others
ü       Aches and pains, muscle soreness, or overall fatigue
ü       Stomach aches, headaches, or dizziness
ü       Changes in eating or sleeping habits

Fighting Back
Being stressed out is not fun, and it can take a huge toll on our bodies, our minds, and our emotions. If stress has started to change from helping you to hurting you and you are noticing some of the warning signs above that you are on stress overload, here are some things that might help you get back on track:
  • Sleep- Even if you feel like you don’t have time or need to finish studying for a test the next day, just do it. Sleep deprivation will take away both your ability to concentrate and your ability to retain information, not to mention it will probably not make you a fun person to be around. So cut you losses and get a good nights sleep- 8 hours if possible.
  • Relax. Duh! That one is pretty obvious, but also something that we often take for granted. Take a second to just breathe, go on a walk, take a break, do whatever you need to do to unwind.  
  • Pay Attention to your Body. Are your muscles tense? Is your back soar? Are your eyes getting out of focus or droopy? If you aren’t sure squeeze your muscles together and then relax them. This is called progressive relaxation. Also, take a few deep breaths and let your body relax.
  • Reassess you priorities. It is really easy to over schedule yourself. Too much to do and too little time. Well, if that is the case then it might be time to reassess your priorities and put yourself and your needs higher up on your priority list. Because even if all of those other things seem fun and important, if you don’t have the energy to really do them the way you want to, then they probably won’t be enjoyable or successful. Fitting less things in and giving yourself time is really important.
  • Let go of the little things. Things don’t always go our way and we can’t always control things. We make mistakes and we are not perfect. Don’t let this stuff get to you. Instead, accept what you can and can’t do, give yourself a break or a hug, and enjoy your life.

We can’t avoid stress. It will happen. You have the power to see it and change it before it builds up to the point where it starts to hurt you. Listen to what your body is telling you, take care of yourself and show yourself some love. You deserve it.