What a week! I have not had time to sit down and write a single word here as every day this week I have had an appointment (or even two!) somewhere. So many hospitals! Oh the life of a spoonie!
On Monday morning I was at the vascular surgeon who is planning some scans and tests to hopefully rule out another possible rare condition (I’m not having much luck so far on those fronts so wish me luck!) and then over to haematology in the afternoon. I’ll worry about those if/when I know more after all my tests but I have several planned including scans and one involving a hospital stay which I’m hoping I can get out of the way before September. Continue reading
Pretty much everyone who lives with a chronic illness experiences a “flare up” in their symptoms from time to time.
Sometimes it can be brought on by stress, working too hard, falling out of a routine such as doing your regular physiotherapy or even something as seemingly benign as the weather changing. For any non-spoonies reading this, a flare-up is when a persons everyday symptoms become worse than usual and life becomes that much harder to deal with. Some people might experience this as increased pain, some as heightened levels of fatigue while others may get a combination of symptoms associated with their condition. A flare can last for anything from a few days to several weeks.
I thought I would share 8 self-care tips for getting through a flare up:
- Microwaveable wheat bag “hotties” are an absolute saviour for me during bouts of chronic pain or muscle spasm. The warmth helps relax the muscles and relieve pain plus they’re a lot easier to manage with bendy hands than a regular hot water bottle. You can get ones with lavender or other herbs in them which can help with relaxation and you can get them in all kinds of shapes and sizes; everything from cuddly animals to more ergonomic designs.
- Soaking in a hot bubble bath is great for relieving tightened, sore or spasming muscles or painful joints. Many people swear by using epsom salts or relaxing oils in their bath water. Hot baths are something to be very careful with if you suffer from autonomic dysfunction such as PoTS but if you’re able to do it it can be very helpful.
- Cuddle your pets! Having my dog Wilma with me when I’m at home laid up really does help. She’s like my own little nurse, she knows when I’m in pain or feeling ill and will come sit by me and offer her company, attention and of course kisses!
- Cut yourself some slack! If you have to cancel something or push back a deadline the world won’t end, trust me. No, you really can’t take on that overtime or baby sit for your cousin right now.
- Take good care of your skin, as all of your body’s resources will be directed towards healing the skin is one of the first areas to suffer. When our skin suffers and we break out in spots or become very dry it can really knock our self-confidence and actually hinder our recovery. If you can find a mobile therapist having an at home facial is a wonderful way of pampering, relaxing and looking after your skin. Many therapists also specialise in massage therapy which is very valuable for those who suffer from fibromyalgia or chronic pain.
- Talk about it! Being chronically ill is a very isolating experience and many sufferers go on to develop depression. It’s important to verbalise what you’re going through and feeling to someone – even if at first it’s just your dog! The internet is very helpful in this regard as there are many spoonie groups and forums you can join.
- Use pleasant distractions to help you cope with pain flares. Watch a film or TV show you love, indulge in your favourite crafting hobby or read your favourite glossy magazines. Whatever you will find engrossing enough you get to forget about feeling crappy for an hour or two.
- Get plenty sleep. We all know good quality sleep is important but for many spoonies it’s something we often struggle with. I say if you really need to take a nap then take one, I do however try not to do so after about 3pm as I don’t want to impact on sleep at bed time. What I wouldn’t do is hang about in bed all day awake if I could possibly help it, that is much more likely to impact on sleep quality and quantity at night than going for an hour nap.
If you’re a spoonie, how do you self-care during a flare up?
There are few “secret weapons” in my beauty arsenal that help me paint on my fake well-person face, in this post I’m going to share a bit about them with you.
Some days you may feel too tired to go full on with the make-up and just want to go for something simple and quick, I’ll cover a short routine for the roughest days that you have to somehow push through after going through the more time-intensive products first. Where I use a higher end product I’ll do my best to offer a high street (drugstore) alternative as everyone has different budgets and when you’re sick your cosmetics resources can really take a hit. At the end I’ll cover a couple of salon treatments that can save us time and energy in our at home beauty routines.
Products For Painting On Wellness
- Always prep with a good moisturiser, one with hyalauronic acid is great if your skin shows fine lines from dehydration or your eye area appears sunken. The skin is one of the last parts of the body to get any of the good stuff we take in from our diets, the body prioritises where nutrients are needed the most and the skin is way down at the bottom on it’s list of priorities so a little bit of extra help never goes amiss. Una Brennan Super Facialist is a brand I’m rating quite highly at the moment and it’s surprisingly affordable. If you have breakouts or otherwise broken skin a great product to try is La Roche Posay’s ‘Cicaplast’ which has vitamin B5 to help heal your skin, it also provides a great base for make-up.
When you’re having a very bad day and you’ve no choice but to spend time on the sofa watching ‘This Morning’ do treat yourself to a moisturising face mask and try to relax and ignore Schofield.
- Stick and compact powder foundations are quicker and easier to apply than liquids or creams. Make-Up Forever do an amazing stick foundation and I really like the Benefit powder foundation. L’Oreal also produce good powder foundations on the high street. Powder foundations are however to be avoided if you have flaky dry skin as the powder will sit in the flakes and emphasize them. Invest in a good scrub exfoliator and a bottle of Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum foundation or similar.
- If you opt for a liquid foundation I recommend a good brush to apply it with, I don’t use your standard flat foundation brush I use a Real Techniques stippling brush. If you wipe the foundation on as with a regular brush it can lift up any dry patches and emphasize them where the stippling brush keeps them patted down. Using the stipple brush in a swirling motion can also hide large pores. Budget store Wilkinsons do a surprisingly good own brand stippling brush for just £4.
- Sleek ‘Barekissed Illuminator’ in ‘Monaco’ or a similar glitter free (that part is important) illumination fluid mixed with your liquid foundation or worn thinly underneath a stick foundation does wonders for putting that healthy glow back into a dull complexion. Choose one that works well with your skin tone, I’m naturally very fair so ‘Monaco’ is perfect but others will benefit more from a different shade.
- Concealers that actually conceal problem areas can be hard to find, I often use Kat Von D ‘Lock It’ foundation as a concealer on break out areas that need more coverage. Other good options are camouflage creams like Vichy Dermablend or professional brand Kryolan’s Derma Colour – remember you need to set camouflage creams with a powder. High street concealers are getting better but they’re not there yet, this is one area you do have to look elsewhere. The cheapest option would be the Kryolan Derma Colour which you can buy direct from their own website it’s also the one available in the widest variety of shades so you’re sure to find something to match your skin tone. NARS ‘Radiant Creamy Concealer’ is a good one but again, quite spendy.
Colour correcting concealers (worn underneath foundation) are thankfully now much more widely available and can be found on the high street. Green is a must have for any areas of redness while peach, salmon or orange (depending on your skin tone) will help neutralise dark circles. Max Factor do green in a handy stick and NYX (available from Boots online) produce liquid and pot varieties, for a good orange check out LA Girl.
- A touch of blush can work wonders, I recommend a cream formulation for both ease of application and blending. Dab three dots onto the cheek bone and blend with your fingers, avoid the apple of the cheek unless you want to look like an old fashioned china doll. Teenagers can get away with that look but the rest of us, not so much! Illamasqua do some lovely ones but you can now pick up cream blush from brands such as No.7, MUA and Sleek.
- If the very thought of blending powder eye-shadows makes you tired but you still want to wear eye make up invest in a wardrobe of cream shadows. They are available in almost every hue and pretty much every company makes at least three or four as either pots or sticks. NYX probably has the widest range of shades available in their crayons, Maybelline’s ‘Color Tattoo’ range are also brilliant, frankly amazing for the money.
- Lipstick. A good lipstick choice draws attention away from other “problem areas” on the face and can reflect a bit of colour and life into the skin too. There’s nothing quite like lipstick for making you feel like you’re ready to face the day. If your medication has affected your teeth and caused yellowing (long term antibiotics in particular can have this effect) choose shades on the cooler/blue end of the spectrum rather than the warmer orangier end as they will make your teeth look whiter.
I have more lipsticks than your average branch of Boots and one of my little rituals is choosing which one I will wear that day. MAC, Illamasqua, Charlotte Tilbury and Rimmel London make some of my favourites.
- At the end of the day if you feel too tired for a full on at the sink cleansing ritual use a good alcohol free (alcohol is terrible for your skin, avoid it like the plague) micellar cleansing lotion. Please don’t be tempted to just use wipes – these are fine to start off the process but don’t rely purely on those. If you’re a wipe user try using a micellar lotion straight after your wipe and you will be amazed at how much make-up was still on your skin. Super Facialist and BioDerma are both very good ones.
A Quick Make-Up Routine for Sick Days
On our worst days we need a routine that doesn’t require too much thought, that we can do almost on autopilot. Here are a couple of alternatives:
On bad days or on very early mornings when I’m half awake I often do step one and sometimes even step two while still in bed as I keep both micellar cleanser and moisturiser by the bed for times when I’m too tired for a full on bathroom cleanse/tone/moisturise.If you have hair loss because of your condition you can find specific tutorials for dealing with loss of lashes and brows over at Look Good Feel Better.
|For a more made up look:
1. Cleanse with micellar lotion
2. Moisturise well and allow it to soak in
3. Apply a stick or powder compact foundation
4. Apply concealer to any areas that require it
5. Apply cream blush
6. Apply lipstick (avoid nude shades)
7. Apply a cream shadow and mascara.
|For a less made up look:
1. Cleanse with micellar lotion
2. Apply tinted moisturiser
3. Apply concealer where required
4. Apply a sheer cream blush
5. Apply a lip product such as a tinted balm or Chubby Stick
6. Apply mascara/pencil if desired.
Time Saving Salon Treatments
To save time in your routine you may wish to consider a salon treatment such as brow or lash tinting, this will save you time filling in brows or putting on mascara to make your lashes stand out. Many local colleges also offer these treatments to the public at a lower price so that students like myself can practice the technique and practice dealing with clients before going into industry. The amount of time the tint lasts varies from person to person, eyebrows around 3 weeks and eyelashes up to 6 weeks. Not bad for a half hour lie down!
Professional hair removal treatments such as waxing and eyebrow shaping save you struggling to do it yourself at home and giving up half way through out of tiredness or fear of mucking it up. It’s far easier to have a professional do it! Yes, waxing is painful but it’s also over very quickly. Avoid waxing if you have easily damaged skin such as that of Ehlers-Danlos Classical or Vascular types, or use topical antibiotics on the area to be waxed. Brow plucking or threading should still be fine but you know your own body.
When I say “the power of make-up”, I am probably coming from a slightly different angle to some of the other beauty bloggers and vloggers out there, many of whom have done transformative videos showing before and after uber-glam make-up applications. Why do I approach it from a different angle? Because I suffer from multiple chronic disabling health conditions, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome hypermobility type being the main one. EDS likes to bring along some friends, and it’s unusual to find a “bendy” who doesn’t have multiple diagnoses.
For those of us who are chronically ill, and also for the many people who suffer from skin conditions ranging from acne to psoriasis to hyper pigmentation or vitiligo – not to mention others battling mental health issues – make-up is like armour. Make-up helps us feel ready to deal with the way that the world sees us and our conditions and gives us a defence against everything that society throws at us as a result. With make-up you can not only be whoever you want to be but also whoever you need to be to survive. It’s not unusual for chronically ill/disabled people and those with skin conditions to have suffered extreme bullying because of the way they present to the world, all thanks to the very body or skin they were born with and have no control over. Make-up allows us to build confidence and to fend off the jibes and the comments because it gives us the ability to appear well – other people’s “normal”.
Hiding our illnesses and looking “normal” helps many people feel able to carry on. The onset of an illness is a huge change in our lives and we can feel as though we are no longer the same person, especially with serious illnesses like cancer which can affect one’s appearance greatly. A person’s identity can seem to have fallen away along with the clumps of hair. When we have a serious or chronic illness, every time we see people – even strangers – they seem to feel the need to point out how ill or tired we are looking. How pale we are these days. Painting on a “normal” non-sick face avoids the endless comments and reminders of our condition, just as for a cancer patient wearing a well-chosen wig avoids disclosing private medical information to all and sundry.
It’s a fairly a well-known fact that looking good can improve the way we feel on the inside. When we suffer with a chronic pain condition, we can wake up feeling like we’ve had ten minutes sleep (when in reality it may have been anywhere between 8 and 10 hours!) and looking absolutely wretched. Yet we know that we absolutely have to carry on and do XYZ tasks – and in this situation it is very helpful to have the tools that make-up provides. A bit of base and concealer later and the dark circles are covered, a touch of blush puts the colour back into one’s face. We can, for a short while, pretend not to be sick. It is possible to fake wellness, and this actually helps the way we feel on the inside even if only a little bit.
Small beauty rituals provide coping mechanisms for anyone and everyone. When we go through rough patches such as losing a job or even the death of a relative, a little self-care and pampering is good for anyone. Equally, when going into a work meeting or interviewing for a new job a fresh coat of lipstick can provide one with a confidence boost and help us feel ready to face it.
To say that make-up is “not feminist”, “just about vanity” or “only for men’s benefit” when it helps so many women (and men too) to feel better about themselves or their condition – it can even help manage pain levels – not to mention providing a livelihood and simple enjoyment for many is to me a bizarre statement showing very little understanding of women (and some men). If a person chooses not to wear make-up, to “embrace the skin they’re in” and the look they were born with naturally, more power to them. But to moralise at those of us who choose to use make-up for many reasons far more complicated than simply wanting to stare into a mirror like a modern Narcissus is badly thought out and shows a kind of ‘health’ or social privilege. Not all of us were lucky enough to be born blessed with a natural skin or look that the world at large finds acceptable, or that people (friends and strangers) don’t feel the need to comment on in a way that negatively affects our self-esteem. Step into our shoes and you will find that it quickly gets old when people are constantly pointing out how pale and ill we look, that we must need more sleep with dark circles like that, or how “disgusted” they are by our medication-induced acne.
In another post I’ll cover products I use to help paint on my normal “non-sick” looking face.