Have you heard people say, “I just don’t have the spoons for this?” and wondered what it means? Well, let me explain. Spoon Theory is a way of explaining the effort of living with a… More
I’ve done a few posts recently on cosmetic stuff (hair or hair removal) recently and I want to veer in that direction again over my next two posts. Today, I want to talk about makeup.
Makeup is a thing I love. I have a gajillion lipsticks and more eyeshadow palettes than is entirely reasonable. I got into makeup originally because I was massively insecure about my appearance, but it rapidly evolved into a form of self-expression and outlet for fun and creativity (I was a face-painter, after all), and is now a comforting ritual I enjoy engaging in every morning. I settle back, listen to my audiobook and enjoy the transformation of my face. I don’t feel the need to always wear make-up anymore, but I do like that it makes me look more alert and put-together for work, and I do like the extra little polish it gives me.
I have a couple of go-to youtube channels for my makeup, primarily Cora Avillar at Vintage or Tacky (although she is doing more fashion than makeup these days) and Australian Stephanie Lange. However, my makeup style isn’t always fancy. Sometimes I have to go super basic because I’m exhausted and in pain and simply don’t have the energy to go through my full face ritual. Unfortunately, these are the days I need the most makeup to project an image of a confident, competent and awake lawyer rather than a half-dead banshee.
Below are some of my tips for days that I am struggling a bit. None of these are particularly revolutionary but they really do help so I think they bear repeating. First and most important is to prep your canvas, which requires some long-term investment.
- Take your vitamins. Vitamins D, E and A are all important for skin. I take a vitamin D and then a specific hair, skin and nails supplement (I can’t see a huge different in my skin, to be honest, but my hair and nails are way stronger for it). Faking a healthy glow starts with a little bit of real health. Likewise, eat a good diet full of all the essential nutrients.
- Stay hydrated. Yes, I know, could I be more basic? Everyone says this. But honestly, the difference is huge. If I get dehydrated my skin loses colour – something I can’t afford as I don’t have much to start with – and looks dull and dry, my massive dark circles get even more pronounced, and I feel bad, which I think makes me look worse.
- Wash, exfoliate and moisturise. You don’t have to plunge into the full Korean 10-step routine, but washing your makeup off at the end of the day, exfoliating regularly and moisturising daily will all help to keep your skin looking fresh and clean, which is a lot easier than trying to hide things with makeup down the track.
- Wear sunscreen. Sunburn hurts and it looks bad and you will peel like some kind of flaky snake that can’t shed properly, and all the other snakes will laugh at you. No amount of makeup can take that weird effect away.
- Keep something cool in the fridge. Whether it is a metal spoon or cotton pads soaking in cucumber water, green tea and aloe, having something cool to put against your eyes in the morning will help reduce inflammation and puffiness. It also feels really nice. ELF does this cooling little eye doodad, or you can get all fancy with this DIY.
- Sleep well as much as you can. This will help reduce the abovementioned puffiness and massive black under-eye circles, or so I’m told. My under-eyes are always super dark. When I have a bad sleep, though, my face looks puffier, more red and more dry, and just generally less healthy. A good sleep isn’t always possible, but take it when you can.
But if you are doing all that/can’t be bothered doing all that and want to push on anyway, what are some quick things to do when you don’t have the energy to do a lot?
If I am going to wear makeup, I will always do my eyebrows. I have weird sparse brows that don’t grow evenly, and without them being done my face just looks unfinished, like God got a bit distracted partway through. Filling them in frames my face, emphasises my cheekbones, and makes my eyes look much more defined. I use this Bare Minerals powder that I have had for 10 years (yes, that is appalling make-up hygiene) but when that runs out I’ll switch to this powder by Adorn. It’s a little lighter and warmer than my current one, which gives a slightly different effect, but it is still good on my super pale self with my dark hair. I prefer powder to pencil or gel, and find it to be much quicker, but different strokes for different folks. The takeaway is, eyebrows make a huge difference.
I also like to throw a quick powder on to matify any residual sunscreen shine, even out my blotchy skin, and reduce any areas of extreme redness. I use this DB powder at the moment but it is a bit yellow for me. I also have an Adorn one but I find it a little drying. I’m on a constant search for a powder that is both pale and neutral and gives amazing coverage, that is also vegan and cruelty-free and not owned by a parent company that tests on animals. Let me know if you find one. Sometimes I also mix concealer in with my sunscreen to make a tinted sunscreen, since they don’t make those in uber-pale.
For low energy days, mascara is optional, but I do like that it works with the eyebrow powder to frame my eyes. I like my eyes, and I want people to focus on them when talking to me, so making them a standout feature is helpful. Luxurious-looking lashes do that. I use DB’s Tubing Mascara for ordinary days and a super duper volume one by ELF on fancy days (now discontinued), both of which have the advantage of being cheap. I also use an eyelash primer by ELF, but I think that has also been discontinued now, and it’s far from necessary.
Final step on a low energy day is a tinted lipgloss. I adore my vast range of lipsticks, but Limecrime’s Velvetines do take some precision and effort. If your hands are shaky from exhaustion, pain, or some of those fun meds we get to take, they aren’t the best, because you’ll accidentally paint outside of the lip line and these babies do not budge once they’re dry. Instead I’ll go for one of these ELF lip crayons, which have surprising longevity and are soft and creamy, or a tinted Hurraw lip balm. The smell of the Hurraw balms are just to die for, and the cinnamon one has a lovely tingle to it.
In summary, I turn to the inestimable Jeremy Renner:
Like I said, nothing earth shattering, but on bad days we don’t have enough in us to shatter the earth. This is just to get us through and give us a false semblance of health and energy. I hope this is of help to some.
Do you have a go-to routine for bad days? Any products you swear by? Let me know in the comments!
TW: suicide, mental health, violence, sexual assault
I know I promised I’d be back to endometriosis on Friday. Apparently I lied. On Friday night I was feeling so well that I seized the moment and went to see my parents, and on Saturday my week of unhealthy living (i.e. drinking a litre of green tea on Friday to stay awake after an early morning and late night on Thursday) caught up with me and I was in too much pain to sit here and write. And now today I’m not really talking about endo either.
Instead I want to write about vicarious trauma, which is fitting given what I wrote about RUOK Day. RUOK Day encourages talking to people and listening to their issues. Blue Knot instead provides services for those suffering trauma, or those experiencing vicarious trauma, which is where you are effected by experiencing something second-hand. We had a training session by the Blue Knot foundation this week.
I’m a lawyer. I hear traumatic stories all the time, including first-hand accounts from my clients about the serious violence they have faced. Sometimes that includes viewing wounds, graphic images people have posted online, and reading some really sickening police and medical reports. There are many professions that are equally high risk for various trauma, including medical, mental health, emergency services and support services. Basically, anyone who hears or sees other people’s accounts of a traumatic event. That can include when you follow the steps provided by RUOK to support someone having thoughts of suicide.
There is always the risk, when you agree to talk about issues someone is facing, that you will be taking on a seriously difficult topic that could leave its own scars on you. It’s not something you should necessarily do unless you are in a sufficiently healthy headspace. Even then, the effect it could have may surprise you.
Vicarious trauma is a sneaky beggar, too. It can build slowly and you don’t even notice how badly you are being effected until you reach crisis point. Alternatively, it can strike out of nowhere for apparently no reason at full power. A few months ago, I was representing a woman to get an interim domestic violence order. She told me her story, I drafted the application, and then about an hour later we were in front of the court and I was taking her through her evidence and giving submissions. While I was making my submissions, this massive lump formed in my throat, tears flooded my eyes and I choked up. I managed to stumble through my closing without (I think) being obvious upset, but my goodness, it was an intense feeling. The strangest part? I can’t even remember the woman’s story now. I don’t think it was really different from anything I’d heard before and I cannot remember why that one in particular got to me. It just did. I was left feeling anxious and unsettled for the rest of the day. I got the order, that much I do remember.
Anyway, that was vicarious trauma. Something about her story triggered a very physical response in me. And trauma is physical – it’s a reaction to stress that settles into the very tissue of your body. But what can you do about it?
First, before you even notice symptoms, act protectively. Dr John Arden recommends a technique called SEEDS – Social Connectivity, Exercise, Education, Diet and Sleep. I’ll let you read more about what that means on that link, as he explains it in his own words, but the TL;DR is: be social, exercise regularly, keep your brain engaged, eat well and sleep well.
As usual, it is an unfortunately able-bodied technique that assumes people at risk of experiencing vicarious trauma are automatically capable of these things. When I’m healthy and not in a flare-up I’m perfectly capable of taking each of the above precautions (except, apparently, when there are cakes to be made), but they are that much harder when you’re sick. So for us, it becomes a case of “do what you can.” Unfortunately these factors don’t become any less important for us, so we have to find ways of doing them that work for us. Maybe our social connection needs to happen by phone or in our house. Our exercise might just be yoga or a couple of minutes on an exercise bike. Education might be pausing our Netflix binge of unhappiness to do a Sudoku or logic puzzle, or switching to a documentary. For diet, ensure that the meals buried in the freezer aren’t just chips and pies, or that your Deliveroo includes some vegetables. If pain or medication is interfering with your sleep, talk to your doctor about counteracting that with sedatives, melatonin, or anti-insomnia techniques. Practice good sleep hygiene as much as you can. The more you do these things, the better able you will be to fight trauma when it comes, vicariously or otherwise (and the better you’ll be at dealing with flare-ups). However, if you aren’t achieving them, don’t beat yourself up – that’s really counter-productive. Practise some self-compassion.
Second, learn to identify it in yourself and others. It may be represented by changes in behaviour that are totally innocuous or even appear beneficial, such as a renewed dedication to work that even borders on or later becomes workaholism. It may be a previously loud person becoming withdrawn, or a quiet one becoming overly loud. It might be an increase in substance use or an inability to sleep resulting in exhaustion. If it is you that is at risk, check in with yourself. Take the time to see how you are feeling and compare that to other days. It’s a weird thing to do, but analyse yourself and don’t give yourself a pass. By that I mean, if you notice that you are tense and agitated, don’t just say, “oh, that’s just because work is busy.” Instead say, “I think that’s just because work is busy at the moment, but I’ll keep checking in on it.” If work calms down and you don’t, it might be time to speak to someone.
Finally, if you realise it that there is a problem, talk to someone. If you have a supportive boss, discuss with them if perhaps you can take a short break from the thing that traumatised you – for example, I might ask if I can do a week of general civil law instead of domestic violence and help people with debt, tenancy and employment instead. However, you may not have the option for that, so you may need to speak to someone outside of work. If your work has an Employee Assistance Programme, utilise it. If you need a starting point, try calling the Blue Knot helpline on 1300 657 380. Talk to your GP about a mental health plan. If you are a student, access the resources at your school or university.
I just want to finish by saying that the training provided was excellent. The trainer was a psychologist and he was clear incredibly passionate about what he does. If it is something that could benefit your workplace, I really recommend it.
Are you in an at risk job? Have you ever noticed vicarious trauma symptoms in yourself? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments.
TW: Suicide, mental health
Yesterday I explained that I am engaged in a battle to the death over who at my workplace can make the best cake. I will tell you the results of that epic showdown, but first I want to talk a bit about RUOK Day.
Did you know that 8 Australians take their own lives every single day? Even higher numbers than that make attempts. Rates of suicide are higher amongst men.
This is particularly relevant to people suffering from endometriosis, and chronic illness in general. Why? Because there are three main factors that make it more likely that someone will commit suicide: social isolation, feeling like a burden, and the means to follow through. I’ve talked before about how easy it can be to become socially isolated when struggling through a flare-up, and that feeling like a burden is one of the many mental side-effects of physical pain. With the amount of strong painkillers many of us have access to, means to follow through completes the endometriosis-suicide trifecta. We are an at-risk group and today really brought that home to me.
RUOK Day focuses less on people at risk of suicide, though, and more on the rest of society and what ordinary Australians can do to help their friends, colleagues or loved ones through the power of asking a simple question, “Are you ok?” It teaches listening without judgement, helping the person struggling to seek appropriate help, and continuing to check in with them (in my view the most important step of all). It’s never going to be an easy conversation to have – it may be embarrassing and overly intimate for both parties, but they are right when they say it can save lives. I encourage everyone to head over to their website, watch some of the informative videos they have on how their system works, and put it into practice. Use this day as a chance to check in with friends and family. That simple act of connection may pull someone back from the brink. It may pull you back. I’ve written before about the importance of maintaining social connection even when you feel like you can’t. Take a step to do that right now. Ask yourself, “Are you ok?” If you aren’t, speak to someone.
On a lighter note, my workplace wisely decreed that the path to mental health is built on cake. Ironically, I had to fight my way through crippling knee pain (my knees were swollen and aching from referred back pain) to make my cake, I literally lost sleep over it, I would have skipped dinner if not for my husband, and I shed real tears. Not my proudest mental health moment. However, the cake was a success!
I was attempting to recreate Anthea of Rainbow Nourishment’s glorious Golden Gaytime cake. For those outside Australia going “um…what?” the Golden Gaytime is a popular and delicious ice-cream that is sadly not vegan. I based my recipe partially on Anthea’s ice-cream bites of the same flavour, and improvised a whole lot. I topped it with a bunch of things from her beautiful e-book, “Nourishing Treats”, including date-tahini-caramel swirls, hazelnut chocolate dough, and vegan Ferrero Rochers. I also made some banana popsicles but the cake was so full of treats that it didn’t need it (and they also were just really unfortunately and inappropriately shaped). On the plus side, they are safely in my freezer where I can eat them all.
Although it lacks the professional finish of Anthea’s cake, I was pretty proud of how it came out.
I was up against some very stiff competition, though. There were six cakes in all.
Offering number one was this banana raspberry creation, vaguely reminiscent of an aeroplane. This cute little number was a runner-up (ranked in the bottom three) and won a box of cake mix.
Offering number two was this plate of delicious-looking white chocolate and macadamia cookies, which deserve special mention as the baker was sick with a sinus infection and still loved his colleagues and the promotion of healthy minds enough to bring in biscuits for us. Despite his efforts, these biscuits also landed as a runner-up and also won some cake mix.
Offering number three I found unbelievably odd. This cake actually looked very much like a cheeseburger. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good (vegan) cheeseburger, but there is something about seeing one in cake form that just does my head in. However, it is very clever and landed a neat third place.
Offering number four was this decadent gluten-free chocolate-raspberry cake, which was apparently full of whiskey. This was the one I was most sad about not being able to eat because it looked so good (mine was the only vegan cake so I couldn’t taste-test any of the others). To my surprise this cake also only made it into the runner-up position – I think maybe not enough people tried it as it was on the smaller side.
Finally, my main competition, made by my work bestie and towering over its competitors: the gravity-defying Malteser cake. It is with a heavy heart that I admit that this cake beat mine to take out the main prize of a silicon muffin tray and loaf tin, and I walked away with second (a very nice glass tray). Admittedly it was an excellent cake and the win was not undeserved.
All in all, I was very happy to come second. I had some stiff competition and although mine looked incredibly decadent, it wasn’t particularly sweet. Barring the chocolate, it had no refined sugar and relied on date and a small amount of maple syrup in the Ferrero Rochers for sweetness. However, I think the lack of sweetness may have worked in my favourite – it was cold and relatively refreshing and I think would have stood out because of that. It also managed to be quite rich, thanks to being 90% coconut cream, and had all sorts of textures thanks to the crunchy base, nutty crumble, stiff chocolate and smooth creamy layers.
So, what’s the take-away from today? Eat cake, but don’t hurt yourself to make it. Perhaps more importantly, look after your mental health, and look out for your friends.
Hello, dear readers.
I apologise for this interruption for your regularly scheduled endo posts. There is a bake-off at work on Thursday for RUOK Day and I’ve been bitten by the Nailed It bug, so I’m using my after-work hours and new energy (thanks Zoladex!) to create like a mad thing. I’m trying to create a Golden Gaytime vegan frozen cheesecake worthy of Rainbow Nourishments (whose BEAUTIFUL e-book is well worth the $20!). Trouble is, her Golden Gaytime cake is a jealously guarded secret so I’m improvising based on several of her other recipes. This could be a disaster.
To add to the pressure, my work bestie has decided to make this into a personal challenge about who is the better baker. I love her but I must defeat her.
For that reason, I spent last night starting the process and will use tonight to do the bulk of the work, which will take hours. I won’t be able to write an actual useful post as a result. However, tomorrow night I will post the result of my labours (and the battle) as well as explain a bit more about RUOK Day. On Friday we will return to something a little more on topic.
Adios til then!
Yesterday I talked about getting rid of unwanted hair. Today I want to talk about what to do with the stuff on top of the head.
Given the effort I put into cleaning my face, you’d be forgiven for suspecting that my hair routine is equally extensive. It isn’t. I love my hair but I hate dealing with it. I wash it once a week, if that, and it does usually get brushed if I’m going to work. There’s maybe a 30% chance of it getting brushed on a sick day or weekend. It’s generally the first thing to get neglected when I’m really struggling.
For that reason, I have a series of go-to hairstyles for when I am sick, tired, or can’t be bothered but still need to look professional for court or like I made some sort of effort. It helps me look better, which helps me feel better, and making the effort sets my day up in the right way. That being said, I don’t want to actually have to make a big effort, I just want to look like I have. Thus, here is a list of hairstyles I use. Bear in mind that my hair is medium to long, so these styles may not work for shorter hair. My hair is also very thick, so people with very thin or fine hair may need hairspray or some sort of product to increase volume (that being said, I still try styles designed for people with much thinner hair and just pin them to death). Having very ordinary white girl hair, this post probably won’t be of much assistance to my black sisters.
None of these tutorials are mine, of course. I don’t have the skills. These are just tutorials that I love and keep handy for my low-effort days. I have worn each and every one and I can confirm that they are both easy and fancy, perfect for those days when you really need to be lying in bed crying but still have to drag yourself into work.
1) Upgraded ponytail
A basic ponytail is a great thing, but just a little bit of extra work can make it into something just a little more put-together and voluminous, which I think makes a person look more energetic and gives the impression of someone who really has their act together. The beautiful Kaylee Melissa (I’ve been a die-hard fan for years) does this great tutorial on some really easy ways to take your ponytail to the next level. I find her tutorials very easy to follow and she just has such a lovely vibe. Follow this link to the original video.
2) The Textured Sock Bun
Everyone knows of the sock bun, but I particularly love Emily’s (the Freckled Fox) version because it doesn’t even require me to tidy my hair first and it still looks super professional. It’s corporate but not boring and it takes so little effort. I wore a slightly more embellished version today, but I use one of the dark brown foam forms you can pick up in Woollies rather than a sock.
3) Tucked Half-Updo
I love a pretty half-up style, and this one from Missy Sue is both easy and beautiful. I think it looks best on curly hair, but it is doable on any texture. It gets the hair out of your face and is office appropriate as long as your headband isn’t too wild. I actually worse a similar style (full updo, though) at my wedding, and I can confirm that it is pretty quick and easy but looks so dressy.
4) Knotty Updo
If you do need an office-appropriate updo but don’t want to do a bun, this knotty style is a gorgeous alternative. If you can tie a knot, you can do this. I’ve worn it in court and it looks professional, intricate and like I actually really tried.
5) Candy Floss Bun
I can’t finish without this super cute bun. It’s not one I’d wear to court but I just love it so much. It’s so fun and voluminous! Admittedly combing it out the next day can be a pain, but that is a problem for tomorrow me. It’s incredibly easy, and because I’m a cheapskate who doesn’t like washing her hair I don’t use any product in it (it still stays fine). It’s great for casual Friday or a day I’m not in court. You can also do the style a bit further down the back of your head for a slightly more professional look.
Thus concludes my round-up of work-appropriate styles for when you are struggling and can’t devote much time or energy to hair. There will always be days when you can’t do even these simple styles and your hair should consider itself lucky if it is brushed and moderately clean. but hopefully these will give you some go-to styles for days when you have some energy, just not very much.
If there is interest, I’ll do a similar round-up of quick and easy formal dos. Also, if any short-haired peeps or curly girls want to do a round-up of endo-friendly hairstyles for different hair lengths and types, please let me know – I’d love some guest posts on that sort of thing.
Have you tried one of these styles? How did it go? Any others that should be on this list? Let me know in the comments.
If you read the comments of any internet article that shows a woman with body hair, you’d be forgiven for thinking it is a crime equivalent to assault with a deadly weapon for a woman not to remove everything but lashes, brows and head hair. Personally, I support any woman who wants to leave the rest of her body hair alone; it’s there for a reason, it isn’t hurting anyone, and removing it can be expensive, painful, and tedious. However, I am not able to escape the societal pressures, the memory of being teased for having hairy legs in high school, or the annoying sensation of leg hair in a pair of stockings, and so every now and then I give in and remove it.
If you too remove your hair, for whatever reason, this post may be of assistance in considering the options for you and what is easiest with your endometriosis. Obviously the cheapest, easiest and quickest way to deal with your leg hair is to leave it be and say a big “nobody cares” to the haters, but not everyone has the courage or the desire to do so, so these are the other options.
Probably the most common method, shaving involves dragging a blade along your legs or other parts of the body and chopping the hair off at skin level to give the appearance of smooth and shiny legs.
Pros: it is quite quick, as you can drag a razor over your legs pretty swiftly once you’re practised at it. It is also pain free, unless you nick your skin, which hurts way more than it should for such a tiny cut. It is easy to do in the bath or shower, and doesn’t require a great deal of effort so it is an easy option for those with endo. It is cheap.
Cons: It isn’t that quick if you have super sensitive skin and need to exfoliate and lather up to avoid coming out in an itchy rash, like me. Hair grows back quickly with shaving, so you need to do it relatively often, and the stubble stage is both itchy and unpleasant to feel when your legs brush against each other. It’s not terribly environmentally friendly unless you purchase a good safety razor without plastic parts. If you are as clumsy as me, blood is guaranteed to be shed. Ingrowns are a problem if you don’t exfoliate well enough. It can be painful during a flare-up to contort your swollen belly around to reach your legs. I find doing the bikini line very fiddly. I also find my underarms look stubbly very quickly.
All in all, probably the easiest, cheapest and most pain-free method for most peeps with endo, but requires regular doing.
Glorious Veet. Chemical removals usually require you to spread an evil-smelling cream over the hair you wish to remove, then rub it off with a sponge. Like shaving, this just brings it down to the level of the skin and leaves the root.
Pros: Like shaving, it is relatively easy. It’s not as quick as shaving but still easy to do at home. It is painless as long as you aren’t sensitive to the cream. No chance of cutting your legs open.
Cons: Generally smells pretty ick. Not great for sensitive skin. I find it doesn’t give me as close a shave as actual shaving. Hair grows back quickly so this requires regular applications. Same issues re contortions as shaving during a flare-up. Not environmentally friendly. Cheapish but not as cheap as razors. Requires different cream for bikini line than it does for legs, from memory.
This one is not a winner for me, although I did it for a long time as it irritated my legs less than shaving and it is safer for a klutz than handling a razor.
Possibly the most common option after shaving, waxing involves applying one of two types of hot wax to the hairy area. One type hardens and can then be ripped off; the other has a cloth strip pressed over it, which is ripped off, bringing the wax (and the attached hair) with it.
Pros: long term effect. Waxing means you won’t have to worry about needing to engage in further hair removal for several weeks, unless you are particularly hirsuite. It can be done at home by the brave. Hair regrowth is soft rather than stubbly, and repeated waxing over a very long time can discourage hair from growing back at all. I found I had fewer ingrowns with waxing.
Cons: It hurts. I don’t find it too bad, except around the ankles and on the shin, but I would never describe it as fun. Your hair is literally being ripped out by the roots. The pain is extra-intense if you have your period. You have to let the hair regrow long enough before it can be ripped out again. Although you can do it at home, hot wax has always seemed to me like something best left to professionals, so it does tend to involve cost, travel time and actually going somewhere to get waxed, which can be hard to deal with during a flare-up. It can be not vegan due to the wax. Bikini waxes or Brazilians involve a stranger getting fairly familiar with your crotch (although we are kind of used to that on the medical side of things, so some people may feel right at home).
I waxed for a very long time and I do prefer it to shaving, but that are barriers that some endo-havers may find are not worth it.
A close cousin of waxing, sugaring is where a hot sticky combination of sugar, water and lemon juice is smeared on the leg, which hardens and is then ripped off, bringing the hair with it.
Pros: like waxing, hair is ripped out by the root so takes some time to regrow, regrowth tends to be soft, and long-term usage can reduce overall hairiness. It is very environmentally friendly (apart from the disposable gloves used by the beauty therapists) as the mix simply dissolves when thrown away and contains nothing toxic or bad for the planet.
Cons: Basically the same as waxing. Pain, cost, commitment to an appointment. In Australia it isn’t very common so it can be hard to find a place that does this. It can go wrong – during summer the sugar refused to harden on my leg and ripping it off once took some skin with it.
Overall, I prefer sugaring to waxing but I’ve had some bad experiences.
It’s hard to describe an epilator without making it sound like a medieval torture device. Basically it is a little barrel covered in tweezers that spins at high speeds. You pass it over the hair bit and it catches the hair and rips it out.
Pros: Only a one-off cost as these things last for years. More environmentally friendly than shaving for the same reason. It can remove very short hair so you don’t need to let it grow for as long as you do with waxing or sugaring, but you get the same ripping-out-at-the-roots benefits. It only takes a little more time than shaving and can be done in the bath or shower, or on dry skin.
Cons: It’s not pain free, although I find it less painful than sugaring or waxing as it is just the hair being pulled and not the skin. Sometimes my hair breaks rather than coming all the way out, so I have to do it more often than waxing to catch the little ones. I also find I get more ingrowns epilating than waxing.
I love my epilator. I have the Braun Silk-Epil 9. If I hadn’t gone for a more permanent option, I’d carry right on epilating for the rest of my life.
The holy grail of hair removal, laser involves firing a laser pulse down the hair shaft and killing the follicle so it doesn’t grow back.
Pros: Relatively painless for me (others do report pain), eventually permanent, extremely quick, environmentally friendly.
Cons: Expensive, some people report pain, takes several sessions to be effective, not likely to be effective on dark skin or very fair hair, requires travel to a professional.
I am currently getting laser as I bought six sessions on a package deal. I have noticed a massive reduction in regrowth and to be oft-waxed legs it is not painful at all. However, my super pale skin does stay red and spotty for some time afterwards, and it can be a touch itchy. Antihistamines help. Shaving is required to kickstart the process. For people like me with extremely pale skin and dark hair, it’s a bit of a miracle, though. The advantages of not having to worry at all about hair removal during a flare up are fantastic – flareups are hard enough without fussing around with my legs.
Overall, for long-term gains, laser would be my favourite option as an endo gal. If it is out of reach financially, the next best (easiest) thing has got to be shaving or epilating. The ease of shaving makes the regrowth problem worth it for most of us. Epilating gives the best of both worlds, so that I would choose it in preference to shaving, but some people find it too painful.
What do you find the best hair removal method? When you are having a flareup do you bother keeping up with hair removal, or do you just let it run wild til you have the energy to deal with it again? Let me know in the comments.
TW: Rape, murder
YES, I’m saying that ironically. I know what it means. My German is better than that, I swear.
That aside, Berlin is a beautiful place and if you are in Europe you should 100% go there. It has something for everyone. If you like fashion, there are stores there that seem to stretch for miles, like the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus Des Westens, or Shopping Centre of the West), which covers 60,000 square metres.
If you like architecture, you have incredible buildings like the Reichstag, which mixes old and new. The main building is this imposing, classic edifice, but it has a nifty glass dome at the top that you can go up inside (we didn’t because the queue was a bajillion miles long). You have beautiful churches and colleges.
It goes without saying that you have the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate).
You have statues and sculptures of cranky academics.
At the more modern end up things, you have things like the Fernsehturm pictured at the top of this post, which towers above the rest of the city.
Architecture blends into history and culture. Berlin is littered with monuments to WWII. From Checkpoint Charlie…
…to the famous Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, there is no getting away from the fact that this was once the seat of Nazi power.
Even just walking through the park, there is this odd grey box that draws your attention. It isn’t until you get close and peek through the little window that you realise this is a memorial to the gay folk killed or imprisoned during the war.
The city also reflects the suffering of the ordinary German people after it fell to Allied forces.
This massive statue is of a Russian soldier. Built by the Soviets from materials taken from the ruins of the Reich Chancellery, it is intended to be a memorial to Soviet soldiers who fell against the Nazi forces. However, in the aftermath of the war, Berlin locals came to call it “The Tomb of the Unknown Rapist”, in reference to the vicious rapes, pillaging and killings conducted by the Soviet occupying forces against to citizens of Berlin in revenge for the damage done to Russia by the war. In Berlin alone it is estimated that 100,000 women were raped, many repeatedly, with the majority of rapes conducted by Soviet troops. Around 10,000 of these women died as a result.
One of the most poignant memorials, to my mind, is the series of tiny brass cobblestones scattered not just through Berlin, but through much of Europe. Each one is inscribed with the name of a Jewish person killed by the Nazi regime, and are located outside their former homes. Once you start noticing them, you can’t stop, and the sheer number of them is horrifying.
The pictures I’ve included above only include the tiniest part of Berlin, and are all within a relatively easy walk of each other. I haven’t even covered the River Spree, the beautiful Jewish quarter, or the horrors of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Out of respect, I did not take any photos inside Sachsenhausen, but I highly recommend visiting. Oddly, the most striking part for me was walking across the parade ground. When we first arrived it was cold, wet and miserable, but the weather turned whilst we were in the museum and when we were next on the parade ground it was blisteringly hot. It is a massive open space with no shelter and absolutely no escape from the elements, and miserable prisoners had to stand there for hours on end. This was happening a mere 35km from Berlin.
In terms of seeing the city, there are so many options. There are plenty of English-speaking guided tours as people from all over the world move to Berlin for its low cost of living and fall in love with its history. We did a walking tour of the WW2 sites of Berlin with an extremely knowledgeable English guide, and the next day took a tour with another Brit to Sachsenhausen. There are also cycling tours, driving tours, bus tours, and these really bizarre round three-wheel bike things that you pedal as a group.
Berlin is nice and flat, so it is relatively easy to get around in a wheelchair if you need, and there is a good underground rail system (although some stations don’t seem terribly wheelchair friendly). Although I was not suffering terribly badly from endometriosis when I went there as it was prior to my first disastrous surgery, I think that I would have been able to travel most places either in a wheelchair or on a bus or rickshaw relatively easily. It’s also one of the cheaper cities in Europe, so once you’ve worn the cost of getting there you’ll be able to make your remaining money stretch relatively far.
It’s super easy to eat vegan in Berlin, too.
If you are worried about the language barrier as an English speaker, don’t be. People in Berlin largely speak better English than most of us who speak nothing else, so hotels, restaurants and tours are likely to be very easy to navigate. If you aren’t too sure, just say, “Entschuldigung (ent-shool-di-gung), ich spreche kein Deutsche. Sprechen Sie Englisch?” This is the polite way of saying “sorry, I don’t speak any German. Do you speak English?” Other than that, as long as you know “Hilfe!” (help), you’ll be fine. If you fancy taking a few German classes before you go, you’ll fine the very basics relatively easy to pick up as there are a lot of similarities to English. German only really gets complicated when you start on grammar or the longer words that Germans love to make by smashing five or six other words together. Pronouncing German words is easy enough too. It’s not like French where you only pronounce three letters out of ten – in German, you say every letter.
All in all, I can’t recommend Berlin enough. It has this fascinating blend of old and new and it is soaked in history. There is this really wonderful sense of a city that is not shying away from the horrors of the past or trying to shift the blame of the holocaust elsewhere, but also learning from it and rising up into this great, inclusive, welcoming cultural centre and not being dominated or crushed by shame or blame. Other nations with slaughter or oppression in their past could take lessons. It’s a brilliant city and I can’t wait to go back one day.
Have you been to Berlin? Any hotspots I’ve missed that you think are a must-see for tourists? Any tips on navigating? Let me know in the comments!
I am one of those people who think that schools should be a place that you learn more than just the reading, riting and rithmatic. I think schools should teach a few life skills as well.
I know it isn’t a popular view, and the counter-argument tends to be that parents should be teaching these skills. I agree, parents should be. But if there is one thing my work has taught me, it’s that they don’t. Some lack the time, some lack the skills, and some simply lack the inclination or ability to have their life together. Should the burden fall on the education system to make up the gap? No, but where else will it fall? If it doesn’t land on someone, our children are going to keep being failed, and it isn’t their fault.
I’m not suggesting that teachers should suddenly be interrupting maths to take their students through the basics of tax returns and changing flat tyres, of course, a la To Sir With Love (but look at what a difference he made!). It is something that needs additional funding and additional teachers.
Where am I going with all of this? Well, I want to talk about why and how I think endometriosis should be discussed in schools.
Most schools do some form of sex ed anyway. In my years at school I experienced a number of different styles. In Year 6 we watched a video of a woman giving birth, with a close-up of the baby crowning. That was traumatising as a 10-year-old, let me tell you. In Year 8 we got some vague talk about periods. In Year 10 we got yelled at by a right-wing American lady whose catchphrase was “Keep your pants on!” In Year 12 we were treated to a run-down of all the common STIs you could get, with obscenely graphic photos. All in all, sex ed was a mixed bag and left a lot of questions unanswered. Certainly, none of them taught me much of use, such as the value of consent or the importance of peeing after intercourse.
All in all, sex ed in Australia is a bit of a shambles, particularly in religious schools. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my Christian schools – great teachers, great friends, great courses – but the sex ed was, well….
I’m not opposed to promoting abstinence. It’s 100% the most effective way not to get an STD or fall pregnant. It’s well documented, though, that abstinence-only education does not actually help students or reduce rates of teen pregnancy. I would really love to see a sex ed course that discusses the value of abstinence but also acknowledges that not everyone will remain abstinent, and give them the information they will need if they don’t. I’d like it to cover the sciencey side of things (anatomy, periods, puberty, fertilisation, pregnancy etc), the emotional side of things (hormones, temptation, relationships, consent, domestic violence, red flags), and the basics of common diseases. By common diseases, I don’t just mean STDs. I learned a lot about HIV during sex ed, and that’s important, but roughly 25,000 people in Australia were HIV+ at the end of 2015. The numbers for endometriosis are more like 1 million, but we never heard a word on it.
If students were educated on endometriosis, I think we’d see a lot fewer teenagers labouring through horrific period pain thinking that they are just weaklings who can’t handle a few cramps. I think we’d see teenagers who’d know that maybe something wasn’t quite right and seeking referrals to specialists much earlier, which would hopefully help end the current massive gap between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis. Early treatment would hopefully help reduce the impact of the pain on young people’s schooling by reducing absences and increasing their ability to participate in school life.
Moreover, if school staff and administration knew more about endometriosis, there might be fewer deeply unsympathetic attitudes from teachers and school nurses. Students with periods may be allowed easier access to controlled dosages of panadol and ibuprofen from the school nurse, more frequent bathroom breaks, or little things that would make their attendance as class easier, such as a heat pack or a cushion for their chair. They might be less likely to be dismissed as drama queens, attention-seeking, weak, not trying hard enough, or deliberately trying to get out of school activities. Even basic education on the fact that periods can be totally erratic and unpredictable in when they arrive or can have terrifyingly heavy flows may assist some educators in changing their attitudes towards students who are struggling.
It would also contribute to reducing the stigma around periods that sees teenagers sneaking to bathrooms with tampons tucked up their sleeves like the very sight will be toxic to young men. High school can be a seriously messed-up place and one part of that is the bizarre attitudes of high-schoolers towards all things “feminine”. If you aren’t girly enough, you aren’t desirable to the boys, and goodness knows that’s what’s important, but if you are too girly you aren’t cool and one-of-the-guys so you don’t get their approval that way either. Either way, you don’t discuss periods because that’s girl stuff (ew) and boys shouldn’t have to hear about that. There are some wonderful young men who are exceptions to this and will carry supplies in their bags in case friends start their period, but they are all too often shouted down by highschool groupthink (peer pressure is actually incredibly effective, by the way). Normalisation of periods, let alone more education about the crippling pain that can accompany them, would go such a long way to making the whole high-school-whilst-bleeding experience easier.
One piece of good news is that Australia’s Endometriosis Action Plan does include more education at school level on endometriosis, particularly in rural, regional, remote and indigenous communities. These are places that, even more so than everywhere else, really suffer from a lack of proper medical care and education. I live in a city with two hospitals within a half-hour drive of my house and I sometimes struggle to get appropriate treatment. Imagine if you live in a small community with one GP (particularly an older male one who is dismissive of endo and period pain) and the nearest hospital, specialist or second opinion is hundreds of kilometres away. I had to drive all over town to try and get hold of my Zoladex. People in remote regions may have to travel for hours and still need it to be shipped in from another location. I’m really glad to see the government planning for change in the provision of healthcare and education.
Do you feel that endometriosis should be discussed in schools? Should it be part of an expanded sex-ed curriculum, a discreet topic or presentation, or should it come in somewhere else, such as a biology lesson? What do you think of the Action Plan? Let me know in the comments.
According to modern medical wisdom, there’s a whole bunch of reasons why someone will get endometriosis. Unfortunately, one of the factors seems to be genetics. It can be inherited through either the paternal or maternal line, so don’t be too quick to blame your mother just because she’s got the requisite equipment, so to speak.
Anyway, if you’ve got it, there’s a good chance that any children or grandchildren of yours with the corresponding reproductive organs could develop it too. Alternatively, you may be someone without the disease but have found out that your child has it. Either way, your chat with them is going to have to be a little more comprehensive that the usual “talk”.
Now, I’m going to assume that this particular chat isn’t going to need to happen until your child starts to get their period, so this is mostly going to be aimed at 12-15 year-olds. I know some children do get their periods younger than that, but even in those cases, it generally takes a few years for the symptoms to become obvious enough to start seeing a doctor about. I think I got my period around 11 or 12, but I didn’t really become conscious of severe pain until several years later, at 14 or 15. My experience isn’t universal, but it seems to be the age most young people become aware of it, so that’s the age that this post will be pitched at.
First and foremost, I think it is vital that young people understand how their own body works. I also think they should get the anatomical breakdown of the bits they don’t have, because understanding the human body is useful and important. Regardless, knowing their own internal workings will help them understand exactly what the disease is and how it is effecting them, save a lot of time in the doctor’s office, and make explanations from any treating specialists a lot more comprehensive. Make sure your teenager knows the meaning of uterus, ovaries and Fallopian tubes and how they work together. Make sure they understand the menstrual cycle, and not just the period. Explain ovulation and how our hormone levels can fluctuate based on what stage of the cycle we are at. Explain how the different stages of the cycle effect the body. Most importantly, establish what is normal and what should be concerning.
Second, listen to them and believe their pain. I’ve talked before about how we often aren’t believed. Don’t be another person in a child’s life who assumes that they are exaggerating, hysterical or don’t know their own bodies.
Enquire. If they say something is wrong, do a preliminary check. If their periods are alarmingly heavy, ask about the frequency, whether they are having cramps, or if they are having bowel symptoms. Encourage them to be open and honest with you or another adult they trust.
Get them medical attention, and fight for them if the doctors aren’t interested. Young people tend to believe it when someone in authority tells them that they are wrong, and I can say from bitter experience that it is pretty crushing and starts the cycle of having no confidence in your own assessment of your pain levels. Talk them through their rights in the medical system and what to expect when visiting a specialist.
Give them autonomy over their own bodies. The older they get, the more maturity they will be able to exercise in relation to their medical decisions. Letting them have their opinions heard about particular options is important in helping them feel empowered. I think it’s super risky to be forcing a teen into a particular course of treatment, particularly with a disease like this where everyone reacts so differently. Give them the benefit of your experience and opinion, but my view would be that, if they are not happy with a proposed course, forcing them into it isn’t likely to be of much benefit, especially if they are an older teen.
Likewise, make sure they have a good relationship with their doctor. I’ve changed had four specialists. It’s important to find the one that is a good fit with you, particularly given that they are going to get up close and personal with your up-close-and-personals. If they don’t have any confidence in their specialist, find them one that they can trust. Ask what they want from a gynaecologist – they may want a particular age or gender, or to try someone recommended to them by someone else.
Encourage them to ask questions and do research. Make sure that they have all possible information about their disease and whatever options they are pursuing, whether medical or surgical. Link them up with a support group, particularly if you can find one of other young people. Give them a place to share their experiences and chat with people their own age. They might have questions that they don’t feel comfortable asking a parent or an adult doctor.
Be patient and understanding. Of course you should encourage them to try their best and push through when they can. It completely sucks, but it is the most unfortunate reality of endometriosis that we have to do stuff that it hurts to do. However, if they say that they cannot do something because it is simply beyond their physical ability, don’t push them. That does nothing but make us worse. Let them rest and recover when they can. I vividly remember being shamed out of sick bay during high school by unsympathetic nurses. Don’t be that person. We don’t like that person.
Facilitate them having as much of a normal life as possible. Help them get to events with their friends and do extra-curricular stuff. They might not be able to cope with the physical stresses of sporting classes, but perhaps they could do a painting or drama class. If they can’t compete in the school athletics carnival, get them decked out in house colours so they can show their support.
Unfortunately, you may need to be a bit of a disciplinarian. Teenagers make stupid decisions (actually, do we ever grow out of that?). Even more than normal teens, young people with endometriosis need to safeguard their health. That means a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, the right supplements, fresh air and sunshine, gentle exercise etc. Many teenagers have the tendency to stay up super late and then sleep in for hours, things they can’t do during the school week and which messes with their circadian rhythms and whatnot. I’m not saying they can never have a late night, but getting them to have a solid routine is really important because they have to go to school and school is full of germs which they are more likely than your average person to catch. Likewise, if they would like to live off chips and pizza (wouldn’t we all) rather than a balanced diet, you may need to put a foot down. Get them involved in making healthy meals that they will like, if you can. My sister and I love making our own pizzas (although hers are mostly meat and cheese, so not a totally balanced diet there).
Ultimately, there’s no road map to parenting, and dealing with a child with a chronic illness will be even harder than raising a child in the pink of health. How do you help your child with endo? Any tips not included here? Any difficult experiences you can share to help other parents avoid those situations? Please let me know in the comments!
TW: childbirth, breastfeeding
I need to preface this by saying that I’m not a mother. What I write hear is based on listening to what mothers say, on having worked in childcare for more than five years, and from having been a child at some point. I would really welcome comments from mothers in the comments, particularly those who have had to have this exact conversation.
The pressure on mothers is already immense, particularly with the increasing popularity of the internet as a way to give and receive advice, and, sadly, criticism and judgement. Google “Mommy Wars” and you’ll get endless tales of women being criticised for doing literally anything with their child. Mothers simply cannot win. Imagine how much harder it is when you have a chronic illness.
Pregnancy is often touted as a cure to endometriosis. It isn’t. It can cause a temporary relief from pain as the body is flooded with hormones that shut down the endo growth, a state that often persists through breastfeeding. However, far too many women report than their endo comes back as bad or worse after finishing breastfeeding. Raising a child is, I’m told (and can readily believe) is a very difficult task, and often intensely physical. Imagine doing that whilst dealing with chronic pain on a daily basis.
If you can’t sit through a movie, how can you sit through a school play? If you can’t stand up long enough to cook for yourself, how can you cook for your children? If you can’t stand, how can you carry your child around, or play active games with them? When you already can’t sleep for pain, how do you drag yourself out of bed to deal with your crying baby? For too many people, that struggle is a reality. Unfortunately, a child will eventually figure out that most mothers aren’t like that. Their friends’ parents run around with them on the weekend, but their parent needs to lie down all Saturday to recover from the week. Their parent isn’t normal. So, how do you talk to them about it?
Tell the truth
My advice? Children are often more intelligent than we give them credit for and there is no point lying to them. It’s difficult enough for childless me to maintain a facade of normality half the time, and I don’t have to do it around a small human who is attached and attuned to me. It’s exhausting. Parenting is difficult enough. Yes, you will always do what you can to be as “normal” as possible for your child and give them the kind of parental interactions most children will have. However, you will crack and you will need time to just be sick, so accept that and accept that your child will notice. Be straight up and explain it to them.
Now, I’m not suggesting you give your 5-year-old a detailed description of exactly what the reproductive system looks like and how endometriosis affects it. Obviously you’d make your explanation age-appropriate. A two-year-old won’t need one. A five-year-old might need to be told, “I have a disease called endometriosis, and sometimes that means I won’t be able to do all the things I want to do with you because I’ll need to lie down and recover.” A thirteen-year-old, on the other hand, is probably old enough to get a more fulsome explanation about the uterus and what’s going on in there. They’ll probably have questions. In my view, it’s better to answer them so you know they aren’t getting some wacky information from their friends who will confidently tell them that you have massive tumours floating around in your pelvis, or something like that.
It’s also worth telling them to expect changes. If you are starting new medication or having surgery, let them know that you may be incredibly tired for a week or two, will need recovery time post-op, or might have an unusually short temper for a while.
Tell them what you need
Children do tend to be selfish creatures. Little ones won’t have fully developed the skill of empathy much, and that’s ok. Consequently, though, they’ll want to know how this will effect them. One cool thing about children, though, is they love tasks that make them feel important. Older children, on the other hand, will feel empathy and will want to do what they can to help. Either way, give them some age-appropriate tasks.
Five-year-olds probably can’t cook you dinner, but they can make sure that their toys are away so you don’t need to tidy up after them. A teen might be able to take on dinner a couple of nights a week, though, and help out with other household chores such as stacking the dishwasher or folding the laundry. Getting children involved with these tasks will take a big load off you and teach them valuable skills (and I say this from the perspective of a very spoilt child who had very few chores).
Tell them exactly how helpful this will be, and reward them with praise for helping you out. Young children will be delighted to know that they are your special helper. With multiple children, rotating chores will help prevent them becoming super bored and half-arsing the whole thing (for a little while, at least). Children are also a fairly competitive bunch, so encouraging them to see who can be the best may be an effective tactic (although potentially teaches placing an unhealthy emphasis on coming first). Monetary incentives or other treats are at your discretion.
Tell them how you can help
As I’ve said many times before, endometriosis effects every sufferer uniquely, and our capabilities all differ. It can be helpful to tell your child the things they can rely on you to do. For instance, will you be able to help with their homework if they come and sit on the couch with you so you can lean back? Can you commit to the school run most of the time? Can you do a batch lot of cooking on the weekend so all you need to do is defrost dinner for the night, so there’s always something for them to eat? Whatever you can do, let them know. It might change on a daily or weekly basis, and that’s fine.
Tell them it isn’t their fault
If you are on medications that affect your hormones and make you liable to tears or being cranky, tell them that it isn’t you and it isn’t them, it’s your medications. They will probably need a whole bunch of reassurance about that if you start snapping over really minor things (obviously, do your utmost not to do that). Parents being upset can have a massive impact on children.
One thing that they might not need to know too early on is if childbirth made the condition worse. If you do tell them, let them know that they are worth every second of it and you don’t blame them or wish they hadn’t been born to spare you. Remind them how beloved and precious they are, and that the fact that you can’t always play with them as much as you’d like is not relative to how much you love them.
Everyone will have their own approach, and what I have said here may not be how you choose to tell your child about your endo. I’d love to hear about your alternatives in the comments below, and why you would or have chosen your way.