Tag Archives: chronic beauty

10 Signs You Might Be a Damn Hippy.

  1. You can name 10 uses for coconut oil without Googling or checking Pinterest.
  2. Your idea of ‘just like a chocolate milkshake only crunchy’ involved almond milk, bananas, nut butter, and cacao nibs.
  3. You spend an inordinate amount of time picking chia seeds out of your teeth.
  4. You couldn’t clean your house without baking soda and vinegar.
  5. You’ve traded in Chanel for home-crafted scents from Etsy. You persist, despite sometimes smelling suspiciously like an antique store run by an over-enthusiastic herbalist.
  6. You put a lot of food on your face. And underarms (coconut oil, baking powder and arrowroot starch only… so far).
  7. You spend as much time reading cosmetic labels as food labels, and in both cases, that is a lot of time.
  8. You’ve had an angry outburst in the aisles of a supermarket upon discovering the questionable ingredients that are in processed foods you’ve always eaten.
  9. You have the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database in your favourites.
  10. You have not only changed your own diet to one considered unconventional by most of your peers, you’ve converted your family … and your pets.

I’m moving toward crunchy and proud these days.

And my ten uses for coconut oil, besides the aforementioned deodorant: cooking oil, home-made chocolate base, smoothie thickener, hair mask, skin moisturiser, shaving cream, eczema treatment, make-up remover, oil-pulling, and a spoonful with my multivitamin to encourage absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, & K).

Any others? I need MOAR COCONUT OIL (clearly) πŸ˜€

In, On, Move: A Wellness Series.

On: My skin, since developing autoimmune issues, has become even more of a Goldilocks than it used to be. That product is too harsh and I am burning and rashy and bits of my skin are falling off! That product is too weak and it doesn’t actually do anything! Occasionally though, I find something just right, and I wanted to share what works for me.

Facial wipes are a necessity for me, because I am lazy, but I am also trying really hard to be a grown up and stop going to bed with makeup on. Also, my skin hates water (yes, tap water gives me a rash, because I am a delicate flower) so by washing with water once and using facial wipes once I get to minimise irritation and still not be filthy. Yay!

Too harsh: I tried Wotnot Facial Wipes, and I wanted to love them. They are marked as suitable for sensitive skin, reasonably priced, 100% certified organic, and “free from sulphates, petrochemicals, parabens, artificial preservatives and fragrances”. I used a packet of 25 wipes and was really happy with them, repurchased, and got about half-way through the second pack when my skin started burning and blotching post-use. I bought a third pack, because I am stupid sometimes, and ended up needing to use the rest as body wet-wipes because they made my face burn so horribly. If your skin is less ridiculous than mine, give them a go though.

Too gentle: After my burning experience, I wanted gentle and soothing (also cheap, in case they were another bust) and grabbed some Dr Organics Aloe Vera Wet Wipes. These were indeed soothing and refreshing, and didn’t irritate my skin even by the second pack. Unfortunately, they also didn’t really do much else; my eye makeup would not budge with these, and it didn’t feel like they completely removed my foundation / tinted moisturiser either. I kept using them anyway, failing something better, but when they were out of stock upon trying to buy my third pack, I ended up with…

Just right: Ecocare Facial Cleansing Wipes in Organic Honey and Apple. To be honest, to me these smell… weird. The honey and apple combines into a boozy, mead-and-cider type thing that I don’t love. But the actual wipes are made with organic cotton, and they are soft and grippy, so they actually feel like they are cleaning effectively, and they get rid of every speck of makeup, so I can deal with the smell. They were about $8 for a pack of 25, so not super-cheap but still pretty reasonable. I’m on my second pack and haven’t broken out in hives yet, so it’s looking good. Praise be to the gods of unjustly sensitive skin!

Do you have any recommendations for sensitive skin cleansers / wipes? I’d love to add to my options πŸ™‚

Note: I bought all of these myself and this is my honest opinion!

Link Round-Up.

Happy Easter to those celebrating, and happy long weekend to everyone else!

I decided to ignore my normal no dairy, grains, or soy rules for Easter and just eat what I wanted. It was delicious, but I feel pretty disgusting now; fatigued and moody with a pretty distressed digestive system. In a way, I think it’s good for me to fall off the wagon every so often, because it reaffirms how much better I feel normally, and that what I am usually doing is the right thing for my body.

So in case anyone else is in a chocolate-induced cloud of bleurgh, here are some distractions!

A piece from Laurie Edwards on the differences in medication efficacy between genders, the higher incidence of women with chronic pain, and the impact of these issues on equitable treatment. I know I post a lot of links on gender disparity in chronic pain, but it’s an issue that keeps popping up in my dissertation research and one I’m passionately interested in.

If you are one of the lucky ladies (or gents!) on steroids for autoimmune disease, you’re likely dealing with a whole host of sucky side effects. This article has some suggestions for how to combat one of them – dry skin.

Michelle at Living with Bob wrote this wonderful post on dealing with the all-too-frequent criticisms that seem to permeate the lives of individuals living with health issues. How many times have we all heard, β€œYou just need to x, y, and z! You’re not trying hard enough!”? I think the perspective shift she discusses is essential.

Amanda at Celiac and Allergy Adventures has some great ideas for identifying and coping with social situations in which food allergies or intolerances may be an issue. I don’t handle gluten, dairy, or soy well, but tend to feel uncomfortable requesting special accommodations, so I usually just don’t eat or eat it anyway and then leave suddenly when I make myself sick. I know this is ridiculous and I’m working on being assertive!

A chronic pain topic I think is incredibly important and not talked about enough; Tracy from Oh What a Pain in the… discusses some difficulties and potential solutions around having sex when you have chronic pain. A friend who did a multidisciplinary pain treatment had a fellow classmate come up to her and quietly ask her if she had any difficulties in this area. This poor lady was suffering and didn’t feel like she could discuss it with her doctors or bring it up openly in class even though it was severely affecting her marriage and quality of life. This breaks my heart. Sex is important to our health and we should talk about it!

Is there anything you’ve written or come across that you think I should know about? Let me know!

In, On, Move: A Wellness Series.

At the start of the year, I made some resolutions, which I’ve managed to maintain reasonably successfully. The core aims I had were to care for my body and try and minimise the strain on it by being mindful of what I put in my body to nourish it, and what I put on my body in terms of personal care. I also wanted to focus on moving my body when I am able in a way that celebrates the function and strengths my body has, rather than beating myself up because I can’t do things ‘right’, or as punishment for unhealthy eating, or purely to burn calories for aesthetic reasons.

I realise these things probably sound like no-brainers, but it took me a long time to start being kind to my body post-chronic pain and illness. I fought my limitations, berated my body for its weakness, and restricted food and pushed it to exercise in ways that made me unhappy because I was trying to mould it into something it wasn’t. My mental shift has been gradual, and I still have lapses, but I feel like I’m in a much better place than I’ve ever been before in appreciating my body and prioritising my health and wellbeing.

Wellbeing is a huge part of my approach to living with chronic pain and illness. The goal of a lot of current chronic pain management programs, when they can’t cure the source of pain, is to maximise wellbeing, or physical and mental health, even in the presence of illness and pain. My goal is to be as well as I can be given my circumstances, and the resolutions were my way of prioritising that.

Because I’m nosy, and I like hearing about what others do in their pursuit of health, and also because I use this blog to keep myself accountable for continuing to try and implement positive change, I wanted to start sharing some things I’m trying and enjoying in terms of food (in); beauty, personal care, and cleaning products (on); and ways of moving my body (move, obviously).

As with absolutely everything on this blog (and elsewhere on the internet!) these are suggestions. I like recommending what I’ve found helpful, but people vary! You may not have the same issues I have, and you may not approach things the same way I do, and that’s fine. If, however, you see something you think would be helpful for you, please, please, make sure with your health providers that it is safe for you to do, with your particular set of circumstances. Especially in the case of movement, one size does not fit all where sick people are concerned!

In: Having been in a particularly chocolate-craving frame of mind lately, I decided to give making my own chocolate a go. I don’t tolerate dairy, and soy also leaves my digestive system disgruntled, so since cutting those out of my diet store-bought chocolate is pretty hard to come by. I’ve had some luck with organic, raw varieties like Pana and Loving Earth, but they get expensive! I tried this recipe, which was quick, easy, and delicious. I used maple syrup as the sweetener and added in sultanas and crushed cashews to make a Cadbury Fruit and Nut imitation (apparently I am the only person alive who enjoys it!), but the potential varieties are endless. Tastes amazing, and no tummy dramas = bliss.

On: My skin has been struggling this week. My dermatitis seems to be getting worse and worse, and I’ve tried a variety of creams and serums which seemed promising for a day or two, and then exacerbated the problem. I also had a couple of giant, sore pimples, courtesy of having a couple of higher-dose oxycodone days.

My go-to emergency mask is just two parts organic raw honey to one part baking soda. I add in some oats if I’m particularly itchy. I just put the ingredients in a bowl, mix them with a finger, and then goop it on to a dry face (and in this case, chest and arms). Be warned, this can be messy, so do it over the sink. Leave it on for 10 – 30 mins (I like to have a bath in this interim so I’m not dripping honey everywhere), them add some warm water to your hands, work it in to exfoliate with the baking soda a little, and wipe off with a warm washcloth. Use a cotton ball dipped in half-and-half apple cider vinegar and distilled water as a toner afterward if you feel like going full hippie (by the time I followed up with my usualy moisturiser I no longer smelled like a bizarre salad, in case you were wondering).

I have crazily sensitive skin and this doesn’t bother me, but if you’re concerned, either patch test or use less baking soda to begin with. The honey is antimicrobial and helps with infections. I find this leaves my skin smooth, settles the flakes for a day or so (I tend to use it the day before I have somewhere nice to be), and takes the redness and swelling out of spots. Plus, I get a childlike glee out of smearing food all over my face. Just me?

Move: I have been all about yoga this year. I’m noticing distinct differences in my muscle strength with brief daily practice that fill me with glee, and most importantly, they can be done in the privacy of my lounge room, which means I can fearlessly wear a sports bra and shorts, and also do my routine directly in front of an air con vent. Key considerations to getting through a Western Australian summer! (Useless fact: the highest temp in my state this summer was 49 degrees Celcius, which is 120 degrees Farenheit. I can’t even.)

I’ve been mixing up back, neck, and shoulder routines from Ekhart Yoga on Youtube, with this and this being current favourites. She often outlines accommodations if you can’t manage a pose, but generally speaking hatha, yin, and restorative yoga are helpful for people with pain or injury. Several of these poses and stretches have been recommended for me by my physiotherapist, so they suit my issues, but be careful to find something that suits yours if you’re interested.

I’d love to hear what you do to keep yourself well and get some new ideas (like I said, nosy).

Silver Linings and Small Victories.

Belated to include the long weekend this week. Yesterday was the first day back at uni, and between class, a supervisor meeting, travel, and a music festival, I was out of the house for 16 hours. I feel like lukewarm death today, and probably will be paying for it for a week, but I’m counting it as a victory (a big one!) because I did it and I didn’t die πŸ˜€ Also, A PERFECT CIRCLE WERE AWESOME!

In other good things, this week:

I am grateful for good days; although I’ve had fatigue and have been feeling low-grade-ill this week, my pain has been negligible (at least prior to yesterday), and that’s vastly preferable to dealing with everything at once.

I am grateful for my body’s muscle memory; my anxiety-relieving yoga routine is becoming habit and I’m becoming more able to relax my jaw, neck, and shoulders quickly when I get stressed, which seems to head off my more severe occipital neuralgia flares.

I am grateful for fleeting moments of confidence in my capacity to meet the challenges in my life (and would like to foster more).

I am grateful for miracle-find natural beauty products.

I am grateful to be able to move my body in ways that feel good to me.

I am grateful that I am developing the ability to be grateful to my body, and to love it now and then, instead of constantly berating it for not meeting a social ideal in appearance or function.

I am grateful for the (technical) end of summer (even though I know it will be another month or two until it actually cools down).

I am grateful for a winter holiday booked, and something delightful to look forward to.

I am grateful that my state is stunningly beautiful and affords so many and varied destinations that it doesn’t matter too much if getting on a plane is currently out of my reach.

I am grateful for hidden reserves.

I am grateful for positive feedback when I need reinforcement.

Stealing Beauty.

This post is going to be vain and self-indulgent, but I’m putting it out there anyway in case any of you can relate.

I hate what my illness has done to my body. Not in the reduced function and pain (although that sucks too), but to my appearance.

So much of our identity and how others perceive and therefore treat us is constructed from the way we physically present ourselves. I’ve been looking at research into healthcare professionals forming judgements based on their beliefs and attitudes about pain and pain patients, and how that reflects their practice (hint: it does, and often not in good ways). It has been said that it is hard work presenting as a credible pain patient, and that this is particularly difficult for women. We are faced with the dilemma of having to appear ‘sick’ enough to warrant treatment, while still not looking like we’ve ‘let ourselves go’ (because that might mean we’re depressed, and that might mean the pain is all in our heads). I’ve actually had a (male) general practitioner tell me I would feel better if I put more effort into my appearance. My mother, while seeing a (male) lawyer regarding a motor vehicle accident (she was in a full leg cast at the time), was told β€œshe was made up so she couldn’t be that bad”. We can’t win.

But truthfully, that isn’t all of it. It’s not even the visible illness markers, like my cane, or a walker, or my surgical scar (which I am oddly proud of and wish I had the chance to show off more often). These things are interpreted by the general public as signifiers of specific problems, which, while still a bit embarrassing at times, are associated with legitimacy and sympathy, and a sense that it’s not your fault.

The things I find humiliating, and that I get furious about, are the little, silent things about my appearance, that others don’t attribute to my illness. My frizzy hair, the result of autoimmune hair loss and my body’s feeble attempt to slowly regrow the lost hairs. The thin patches in my hair from the same. The ironic extra hair on my extremities caused by my body’s lack of capacity to regulate temperature, and the excessive sweating caused by the same. My frequent inability to deal with this hair because sitting at a salon or bending to shave my legs is physically difficult. My red, blotchy, flaky skin, courtesy of the autoimmune rash and dermatitis that has now spread over my face, chest, back, and upper arms, and which does not consistently respond to anything. The numerous unexplained small bruises I’ve been experiencing since I got sick. The white toes and purple feet and legs of Raynaud’s phenomenon. The two or three kilograms of bloating that can follow consumption of any dairy or grains and make my clothes immediately ill-fitting and awkward. My hunched, limping gait on days when I am stiff and sore but not bad enough for a walking aid. My need for appropriate (and usually un-fancy) footwear to negotiate walking and stairs when I can’t feel my leg.

Then there are the physical indicators courtesy of pain and pain medication that I fear get read as ‘junkie’; shaking, sweating, a face full of pimples, scratching at my ever-itchy nose, and dilated pupils, accompanied by rushed speech and trouble concentrating.

Pain and sickness are ugly on me. I hate that people who don’t know I’m sick might interpret these things as laziness, or a lack of awareness. I hate that it takes me twice as long to look half as decent. I hate the expensive and often ineffectual hunt for beauty products I can use without disrupting the ever-so-delicate ecosystem of my body, and that the products I do find often don’t work as well. I hate that this illness is stealing what should be my ‘pretty years’, when I’m at a good weight for me, and I’ve grown out of youthful awkwardness, and society still wants to look at me. I hate that the social phobia I conquered as a teenager is re-emerging, based on all these fears and insecurities. I hate that it’s vain and self-absorbed to talk about these things, even in the midst of a society that teaches women that their value is based on their appearance.

Most days, I can get over these things. I can square my shoulders and head out feeling ugly and self-conscious. But today I can’t, and that’s okay. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Link Round-Up.

Also a little late this week, but a few things that have caught my eye recently in between journal articles:

http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/2013/02/03/how-to-say-no-to-everything-ever/

Sometimes saying ‘no’ is vital to our health – most chronically ill people I know have had to scale back significantly on commitments – but it can be really hard! This is a great formula for doing so kindly.

http://www.sarahwilson.com.au/2013/02/things-feeling-shit-full-its-ok/

An important reminder to keep digging when things are less-than-awesome.

http://www.aaup.org/article/chronic-illness-and-academic-career#.UR

Notes on being chronically ill in the academic sphere. While focused on academic staff, many of these issues also apply to students, and I’ve encountered difficulty with some of them, such as brain fog or fatigue being perceived as a lack of intelligence or motivation. My tertiary education has been a continuous struggle between being accorded accommodations I require for success without destroying my health, and the fear of being perceived as stupid and/or lazy.

http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/cluster-headaches

A personal account of living with chronic pain in the form of cluster headaches; a lot of the points in this resonated with me. Cluster headaches were one of my initial diagnoses when I started getting occipital neuralgia; I was glad it turned out to be wrong!

http://www.xojane.com/beauty/beauty-as-medication-its-an-effort-but-i-put-on-make-up-today

I liked this piece from a young woman with Crohn’s disease on getting dressed and made up to make yourself feel better when you’re sick. Putting on makeup (or even brushing my hair or showering) can be so hard when you’re fighting massive fatigue and pain, but if I can muster the effort to put myself together it usually does help, even if I’m the only one that sees it. Then again, I get anxious when my regrowth and eyebrows look bad (and it always happens at the same time!), so maybe that’s just me.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2013/01/14/medicine_and_hospitals_a_doctor_s_advice_for_being_admitted_to_a_hospital.html

Some aspects of taking care of yourself in hospital that wouldn’t have occurred to me as a patient, but certainly could be valuable, particularly for hospital ‘frequent fliers’.