Introducing Faces of Tia: a storytelling project to highlight the diversity of women that comprise the Tia community. Literally and figuratively, our vision is a byproduct of all of the women — patients, providers, partners — who share their wants, needs, and dreams to improve women’s health with us. They are the Faces of Tia.
Elana, in your own words, what does it mean to be a “Well-Woman” in 2019?
I believe that a “Well-Woman” in 2019 knows what she needs to feel nourished and balanced. She has learned how to set boundaries in her personal, social and work lives to avoid feeling burnt out, over-extended and drained. In this age of “self care,” she gives her body and mind the rest, movement and love that she needs to feel good. A well-women can speak up for herself; knowing when to ask her community for help, when to back down and when to say no. She recognizes her imperfections but loves herself regardless, knowing that she is enough.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself over the last decade?
Over the past decade, I have learned to trust myself. I’ve always been the type of person who calls a million friends before making any sort of decision. Maybe it’s my Gemini nature, but I’ve always struggled to finalize my choices and feel confident about what I wanted. No matter how big, (should I move to New York City?) to how small (should I eat that cookie?) I’ve doubted myself and my ability to know and more so, to trust what I really wanted. In the last decade, however, I have learned to listen to my intuition, to know that I am fully capable of making my own choices, and while I can (and do) still turn to friends to talk something over, I am the one who need to decide. Trusting myself is everything.
If you could go back in time, what do you wish you knew about your health that you know now?
I wish I knew that things take time, that patience is everything and that sometimes you can’t fix yourself. I wish I knew that taking care of myself every day and having a self-care routine, no matter how small, is essential to my mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. As much as we may think we can, we can’t overextend ourselves and expect our bodies to keep up. I didn’t understand the value of listening to my own my body’s cues; hunger signs, fatigue, headaches or sore muscles and because of this, I didn’t know when to stop or slow down. Through trial and error, I have since learned to listen, I appreciate that I discover more and more about my body and myself with every year that passes by.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one aspect of women’s healthcare, what would it be?
I would change how we talk about sex, about body acceptance and self-care. I’m grateful that the idea of self-care and self-love are finally gaining traction as wellness trends that promise a relaxed mind and rested body are suddenly everywhere. I wish that sex conversations were more diverse, more inclusive and more open from the start. Knowing that we can have sex that is different from what we read about in Cosmo, see in health class or on Sex & The City can be life-changing to someone who doesn’t fit into that hetero-normative box. We have so much shame and guilt around sex, especially when something isn’t right or isn’t “normal.” Luckily, due to more queer and diverse visibility in mainstream media, this is finally starting to change, but we still have a lot of work to do, especially in the healthcare world. This is one of the reasons I’m so excited to work with Tia.
Tell me about your journey to acupuncture. What drew you to it?
I started getting acupuncture when I was in undergrad. I was a creative writing major and while working on my thesis, I got tendonitis from writing all the time. I didn’t have healthcare or an expendable income, but luckily, someone recommended that I go to an acupuncturist who was able to be flexible with pricing. I decided to go and within a few treatments, not only was my wrist feeling better, but the treatments helped to reduce anxiety, lift my moods and energy. I was so amazed at how these little needles were able to do so much — I was instantly hooked. Even more so, the questions that Chinese Medicine brings up and asks of us led me to examine my body in ways I had never considered; did my headaches come on before my period or after? What kinds of foods did I crave? Do I feel rested when I wake up? Do I sweat at night?
I had battled an eating disorder for years — I didn’t understand how my mind and body were a part of the same circuit. With the support of acupuncture and the self-awareness it encouraged me to have, I was able to reconnect to parts of myself I thought were lost. I became drawn to this medicine because of how balanced, supportive and customized it is. Two people may both have period pain, but their remedies can be entirely different because they are not the same. This is an idea that seems so simple and even so, I think conventional medicine often strays from this belief. I think Chinese Medicine is magical in how it works; helping people regain body awareness through supporting them to find balance and encouraging them to make small, everyday changes towards a balanced lifestyle.
How do you see acupuncture complementing conventional medicine?
I have found, both personally and clinically that time and time again, acupuncture is able to provide unparalleled support to conventional medicine. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine strive to get to the root of why problems and diseases arise by analyzing our everyday patterns and behaviors. As an integrative medicine practitioner, I believe that when balancing health, it’s often necessary to engage with a more holistic and inclusive view to create lasting benefit. By helping to reduce inflammation, balance hormones, relax the nervous system and encourage rest, acupuncture and TCM provide a grounding reset to modes of conventional medicine.
What is the connection between acupuncture and women’s health?
Simply put, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) works to restore balance to one’s overall health. For women’s health in particular, there are many moving pieces — stress, sleep, energy, menstrual health, hormonal wellness, and so one. When just one piece to this complicated puzzle goes off track, the whole system is off. TCM works with the body to redirect and recalibrate the imbalances; how blood is flowing, how hormones are rising and falling throughout the cycle, how easy digestion is and so on. Through bringing awareness to the part of the puzzle that has fallen out of place, TCM aims to find the root of the problem. Acupuncture is so good at filling in the gaps of conventional healthcare; it is a subtle medicine with many intricate nuances, not unlike women’s health. The ability of TCM to look at each women as unique creatures and discover a personalized route to health is unmatched.
Why did you join Tia? What is your definition of success for Tia and women’s health more broadly?
I joined Tia because I believe in the mission that women’s health care can be better, can do more. I believe that by working side by side with a multifaceted team of skilled and passionate practitioners, we can better address the common imbalances that women face. I believe that women’s health care should be affordable, approachable, accessible and integrative. Women’s health care should provide solutions, remedies and answers rather than fear, distrust and trauma. I think the success for this clinic will be bringing a diverse group of women together in open conversation about their health to offer encouragement, empowerment and reassurance.
Tia is the next generation women’s healthcare platform bringing empathy and innovation together to help women thrive. Our interdisciplinary team of doctors, designers & data enthusiasts have seen first-hand how women’s needs have been radically underserved and underestimated, and are on a mission to build a new distinctly female care model from the ground up, online and offline.
Tia’s ecosystem of products, tools and services — from the Tia app to the Tia Clinic, a real-world gynecology & wellness practice based in NYC — is connected by a unique, human-centered approach to care that focuses on listening and learning all about women and their holistic needs, from anatomy to emotions, from gut health to getting it on. Tia encourages honest and transparent conversations about patients’ health, both with their care team and their community of members, to help women make independent and informed healthcare decisions with confidence and ease. To learn more visit asktia.com.