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Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper: What’s Your Reaction?

“Reaction: a boat which is going against the current, but which does not prevent the river from flowing on.” — Victor Hugo

My entire life, I’ve always been that person who says to the doctor, “I’m not allergic to anything.”

I’ve also been that person who reads the potential side effects of a medicine and declares “not going to happen to me.”

Well, lo and behold, this week I got an adverse allergic reaction to something that was supposed to help me, and it landed me in bed for two days. Of course, it also got me thinking…

Initially, I was mad at my doctor. I have a pattern of doing this, and I know I’m not the only one. We look for someone to blame or get mad at when something doesn’t go our way.

On the first day, the doctor was calm and said, “Maria, I mentioned this had side effects. Perhaps you didn’t listen.”

I replied, “Um, no you didn’t mention this kind of side effect because if you had, I would have listened.”

By the second day, my condition had worsened and my doctor said, “Well, there are always some people who have adverse allergic reactions, but we don’t know about them until they happen. So now we can tell others about yours and that will help them.”

“Um, great.” I thought. “Glad I could help.”

As I sat holed up in my room looking like something I can’t even describe, I started looking for the lessons in this experience. (Yup, I’m always trying to find lessons.)

For one, all this is yet another reminder that there is a severe lack of knowledge about women’s health in America. We’re in the midst of a massive gender research gap in medicine and science, which in turn leads to a massive gender gap in knowledge. Meanwhile, the women on the ground are the ones dealing with the ramifications.

Women get 80 percent of all autoimmune diseases. We also get MS, depression, anxiety, Hashimotos, thyroid conditions, Alzheimer’s and strokes more than men. There have also been no long-term studies on hormone replacements. Everywhere we go, we’re met with doctors or experts who say “We don’t know.” Or they say, “We don’t have the data, so we can only tell you so much. Then, you’re on your own.” It’s beyond belief and it’s maddening. I’m having an adverse reaction to all of it, really. This is why I am constantly trying to use my voice and my reporting to speak up and speak out about the injustice of the gender gap in medicine.

On another note, this whole experience has also made me think about the toxicity that we let into our lives on a daily basis. I’ve thought, imagine if we had an outward physical reaction to toxic people, instead of just that gnawing one in your stomach? Imagine if your body swelled up every time someone lied to you. Would you run away from that person faster? Would the person who causes you pain get the chance to upset you?

I tried this theory out on a friend and she took it one step further. She said that so many people also have an adverse reaction to their deepest callings. They don’t want to think they are an artist, writer, poet or freedom fighter, so they push their thoughts away from that calling. They have a bad reaction to them because they’re too afraid to become what their internal voice is telling them to be. They go on to live a false life until, well, they end up sick in bed. Hmm…

While I don’t want you to end up in bed with an adverse allergic reaction, I do think my bump this week has some lessons to teach all of us.

1) Read the fine print on any medication you take and don’t assume you won’t have a reaction to something, just because you haven’t had one before. By the way, most medications haven’t even been tested on women, so ask your doctor if the one you’ve been prescribed has been. If it hasn’t, ask for one that has. And furthermore, ask for a dose prescribed for your age and weight. Not all adults come in the same shapes and sizes. Hello!

2) When your doctor proposes a new drug (or new anything), do your diligence and learn more about it. When they say there are possible side effects, assume that these effects that could happen to you. They have to happen to someone, so why not you?

3) If you do have an adverse allergic reaction, ask yourself what it’s here to tell you about your body or your mind.

4) Also, think about the people or issues that give you a pit in your stomach. Take those things and put them in your mind’s space. Feel the reaction they cause your body and then imagine that as physical swelling. Imagine you look like I did earlier this week. (Trust me, it’s not for public consumption!) List these people in your notes under adverse allergic reaction. Or, if it’s an issue or societal problem that causes you to feel this way, then go out and do something about it.

5) Think about what your true calling in life might be. Are you having an adverse reaction to it, just so you don’t have to go out and actually do it? I’m not telling you that you are, I’m just asking if it might be a possibility. I know it rings true for me.

Ultimately, my takeaway from my unexpected allergic reaction this past week is that all of us are vulnerable to side effects and reactions, so read the warning label. Make an educated decision knowing that you could be the one to suffer from those reactions. And my fellow female warriors, please join me in demanding that our doctors learn more about women’s health at every stage of our lives. We deserve better than we are getting.

Adverse reactions—be it to a drug, a person or our inner voice—always teach us something about our bodies, our minds and our choices. Think about what yours are teaching you and act accordingly.


Dear God, please help me pay attention to my mind, body and spirit. They may be trying to tell me something I need to hear. Amen.

Did you enjoy what you read? Forward it to a friend or share on Facebook!


Sunday Paper Exclusive: Jennifer Garner on Her Life-Changing Experience Meeting Families on the U.S. Border 

In an exclusive essay for The Sunday Paper, actress Jennifer Garner, also a Save the Children trustee, takes us to the organization’s new programs in New Mexico that are helping migrant children and their families who’ve been released from U.S. detention centers.

Want to Strengthen Your Faith in a Secular World? Read Our Exclusive Q&A with Author David Zahl.

In this exclusive Sunday Paper Q & A, “Seculosity” author David Zahl explains how many people are looking to everyday activities—from eating and parenting to dating and voting—for their identity, purpose, and meaning, and how we can find our way forward.

Want to Let Your Heart Shine This Summer? Buddhist Teacher Jack Kornfield Inspires You to Set It Free.

In this short, but delightful piece, SP Columnist and renowned Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield reflects on the miraculous light of the firefly in the summertime and how it relates to the shine within our own hearts.

Looking for Your “Why” in Life? Bestselling Author Simon Sinek Can Help You Find It.

Simon Sinek is the thought leader behind one of the most popular TED Talks of all time. Now, in the insightful and groundbreaking book Find Your Why, Sinek partners with Peter Docker and David Mead to offer techniques and strategies for making your work more engaging, meaningful, and aligned with your WHY. 

Ready to up-level your sense of purpose? Join Simon Sinek’s lead teaching team at 1440 Multiversity this summer for a groundbreaking weekend workshop, The WHY Program: Why Discovery for Individuals, August 23 – 25, 2019. 

Need Help Easing the Stressors of Your Daily Life? SP Reader Brandi Murphy Has Some Advice.

In an original piece for The Sunday Paper, reader Brandi Murphy of Connection Table offers guidelines for navigating the challenging transitions we face on a daily basis. 


1. The Sunday Paper Architect of Change of the Week: Special Olympics’ Golfer Amy Bockerstette This powerhouse athlete is Gary Woodland’s US Open inspiration. 

2. News You May Have Missed: Why Women Get So Many Autoimmune Diseases A recently published paper suggests that “women’s immune systems are engaged in a fierce tug of war with placentas, even when the organs aren’t actually present.”

3. News to Make You Think: What Makes a Leader? This great piece from the New York Times explores the fact that successful female leaders are “embracing traits like empathy and collaboration to get things done.”

4. News You Can Use: Why You Need a Brain Gym. We exercise our bodies for better health; so, too, we must exercise our brains, according to Dr. Richard Carmona, the 17th surgeon general of the United States.

5. News for Your Mental Health: Just One Day of Work Can Improve Your Mental Well-being New research suggests that working eight hours in one day has the same positive impact as full-time employment.

6. Our Yippee! Moment of the Week: Dad and Son Duo Get Denny’s Commercial After Viral Video DJ Pryor was a comedian for years, but he just recently gained international attention with a viral video of him “conversing” with his 19-month-old son. Now the father and son duo are being spotlighted in a new Denny’s ad. 

Their success is part of a larger wave of dad influencers these days. Read this Wired piece in praise of them.


Congratulations to poet Joy Harjowho was named the first-ever Native American U.S. Poet Laureate this week. In recognition of this accomplishment, we are sharing this beautiful piece from her book “Mad Love and War,” which reminds us that we must appreciate the fact that we are all connected to the earth and spirit world.


The Sunday Paper Dinner Club: We’re all about connection, and what better place to do that than at your dinner table? It’s a place to gather, share meals, and engage in meaningful discussions with people who matter. We’re here to help you get started.

This Week’s Conversation Starter: Have you had an “adverse reaction” to a person or situation recently? How did you overcome the “side effects”?

A Recipe For Your Dinner: This healthy and yummy recipe for Mango and Prawn Salad is from our recipe content partner Chef Katie Chin and her book Everyday Chinese Cookbook. 


Why Moving Your Body Is Good For Your Brain

New York University neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D, a WAM Scientific Advisory Council member, says that exercise is one of the most important things you can do to keep your brain healthy. Why? Physical activity stimulates the birth of brand new cells in the area of the brain that’s key for long-term memory. 

Join Wendy, Maria Shriver, and other ground-breaking researchers and health and wellness experts at Move for Minds in Los Angeles on November 2!

THE WOMEN’S ALZHEIMER’S MOVEMENT is a global movement of game changers, groundbreakers, and cultivators of hope. We’re working to wipe out Alzheimer’s and change the future for all minds


Visit the shop on to get Maria’s book “I’ve Been Thinking,” her coloring book for Alzheimer’s “Color Your Mind,” the Maria candle, Rivet Revolution bracelets benefiting The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, and more!

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