Spoon Theory

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 chronic illness.  Created by Christine Miserandino during a meal in a restaurant, it goes like this:

Imagine that you start a day with a bunch of spoons.  These represent your total energy for the day.  Now, if you are a healthy person, that bunch is probably quite large.  If you have a chronic illness, it’s not going to be as big.

Now, take yourself through your day.  If you are healthy, getting up, getting dressed and getting to work might just take one spoon away from you.  Let’s say you started with 24.  Now you have 23.  If you have a chronic illness, each of these tasks might take one or two spoons.  Let’s say four total, because getting ready requires a number of smaller tasks.  If you started with just 12, now you’re down to 8, and you haven’t even started work yet.

Now let’s go through what would be a typical day for me.  Let’s say I’m at the court in the morning giving duty advice.  I have a three hour shift there.  That shift by itself costs me one spoon.  Add in an exceptionally difficult customer and that’s another spoon gone.  Let’s say it’s a particularly mad week and I’ve got to go into court for someone – another spoon.

So if that three-hour shift took 2 or 3 spoons, I’m down to just 5 or 6 left for the rest of the day.

I have my lunch break.  A healthy person might gain a spoon from some food and a break.  I don’t.  I need it just to maintain my spoons at their current level.

In the afternoon I see a client (another spoon), do some follow-up work from the morning (another spoon), deal with the inevitable crisis, because there is always one (another spoon), and review my files (another spoon).  That’s four spoons.  I’ve just got one or two left, and I still need to get home, eat, shower, feed the cat and go to bed.  If my husband is away, I’ve also got to walk the dog and cook myself dinner (he is my wonderful chef most nights).  As you can see, there aren’t enough spoons in the drawer for that.  That’s how I can end a day without having done much at all and still be totally and utterly wiped out.  I certainly can’t do what other people can do after work – go to a class or the gym, or spend time with friends.  If I do that I won’t have enough spoons left to do what needs to be done.

Now, some days I might have more spoons than others, and sometimes I’ll gain a spoon during the day if my pain suddenly vanishes or my meds kick in and give me a burst of energy.  On the other hand, if I forget my vitamins or suffer a flare-up, or even just have a cold, I’ll have even fewer spoons.  Right now I have the flu, a sinus infection and gastro (thank you, depressed immune system), so my spoon count is pretty low.

Some spoon-raising factors include good self care, such as getting a good night’s sleep, eating three good meals, staying hydrated, sitting in the sun for a few minutes and just enjoying life, taking all my vitamins, and waking up pain free.

Spoon-reducing factors include flare-ups, sickness, waking up in pain even if it later goes away, failure to look after myself, a late night or early morning, a bad dream, difficult people or conversations, and stress.  The longer a flare-up goes on, the fewer spoons I will have each day as exhaustion, prolonged pain and depression eat away at them.

One consequence of this is that chronically ill people have to be super aware of our spoons.  I am not always very good at this and frequently overestimate my own abilities, leaving me without the physical resources to be useful in the latter part of the day.  Generally speaking, though, I am aware that I live life in a series of trade-offs – if I do X, I can’t do Y.

Up until this little flue debacle, things were going relatively well – last week I had sufficient spoons to do something after work every night of the week, whether it be walking the dog, writing a blog post or driving thirty minutes to see my parents.  Sure, some nights I was cutting it extremely close to the wire and had to massively overcompensate with caffeine on Friday which led to terrible pain on Saturday (see?  Trade-offs) but overall I was pretty well supplied with spoons compared to how I had been just two weeks earlier.  This week, not so much.

Have you heard of spoon theory before?  Do you ever use it when explaining your illness to others, or do you have other methods you prefer?  Share in the comments below.

Various Announcements

Look at all these cheerful people announcing things!  Stock pictures are great.

I want to announce a couple of exciting changes.

  1. I have added some menus and an “about” page.  If you go to the home page and take a peek at the right-hand side, you should see my posts about endometriosis collated in one menu, and my posts for tips and tricks on living with endo collated just beneath that.  I’m hoping this will make these posts more accessible, particularly given that they are the primary point of this blog.
  2. I’m dropping my frequency of posting from daily to every second day for now.  I think I’ve built up a decent amount of content now that should keep new readers entertained for a while.  As I’m getting better at the moment thanks to being in false menopause (post on that coming soon!) I’m back at work and have less time to write posts, so generating seven over the weekend for the coming week is a bit of a challenge.  I haven’t lost my drive to maintain this blog, but I am now much more lacking in time than when I was home sick three-five days each week.  Reducing my posts to every other day will let me produce better quality content as I’ll have more time and energy to devote to it, and stop me having to do those apology posts that I’ve been doing recently (sorry!).
  3. I’m travelling to the UK next month, so that may also affect my ability to post.  I will try and prepare a bunch to release whilst I’m away but I may not have as many as I’d like, and I want to spend my time in the UK with my family, so for three weeks this blog will take a backseat.  It will be up and running again as normal in November, though!  Expect some posts on travelling with endometriosis and travelling generally, including packing lists and must-see places in the UK.
  4. Finally and most excitingly, my surgery has been confirmed!  Dr Edi-Osagie will start with an exploratory operation, and if he confirms the presence of endometriosis he will perform a total pelvic peritoneal excision.  I’m terrified but full of hope.  I’ll do a more fulsome post on this as well in the near future.

So, these are the exciting things going on in my life right now.  Big changes, hopefully for the better.

I just want to finish on a quote I heard in the current audiobook I’m listening to (I use Audible and I cannot recommend it enough), which is Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson.  It says this:

Accept the pain, but do not accept that it is your fault.

That really resonated with me, for fairly obvious reasons, and I keep coming back to it.  Accepting the pain that is part of our lives is so important, and feeling guilty for having it is an incredibly important trap to fall into, but it is something we need to fight against.  This quote just reminds me of that.

Are there any things you would like to see posts on in the coming months?  I’m still working on a Christmas giveaway or competition as well, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on a good prize and whether a giveaway or competition is preferable.  Let me know in the comments!

App Review: Stylebook

I may be coming across as intensely shallow with my recent posts about hair and makeup and my previous post on fashion.  Well, I am shallow, so that’s fine.  I like pretty things and I have no shame in that.  Mock if you will.  Anyway, as part of maintaining a life of prettiness, I like to keep organised (my mother will scoff at that but there is a method to my madness, I swear).  I could do that through my bullet journal, which is how I organise most of my life, but for hair, makeup and clothes, I like to use the amazing Stylebook app.

I was first introduced to this app by my friend the Vintage Barbie.  If you like vintage-y style you will love her blog.  Go and follow it.  Anyway, she got me hooked on this app and there has been no going back.

Stylebook currently costs $5.99 of the Australian dollars on the App Store.  It’s not available on Android, alas.  Normally, I’m not a fan of paying for apps, but I make an exception for this one.

I won’t go into a breakdown of how to use the app, because Vintage Barbie covers it beautifully and I’d just be duplicating her excellent explanation.  What I want to talk about is why I love it.

Although Stylebook is an absolute pain to set up, particularly if you have a lot of clothes, it is incredibly easy to use once you have it completed.  It’s also really useful and totally customisable.  For example, although the app is intended to be used for clothes and accessories, I have added in my makeup, perfume and hairstyles.

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I do not agree with the concept “too many lipsticks”.  

This lets me pick what lipstick I want to match with an outfit without having to rummage through my obscenely large collection to pick a colour.  It also inspires me to try different hairstyles by picking them ahead of time instead of just leaving it to its own devices (or throwing it into a hasty ponytail on court days).  I’ve just pulled screenshots from my favourite Youtube tutorials or Pinterest and wacked them into my Hairstyles section.

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You can see one of my favourite styles, the Candyfloss Bun, up there in the left column.  

The biggest pro of Stylebook, as far as I’m concerned, is that it shows me a) what I’m not wearing very much and b) what I’m not getting good cost-per-wear out of.  That’s super valuable in terms of curating my wardrobe, because it forces me to take a good look at the items in question.  If they are things that it makes sense not to wear often and to have a high cost-per-wear (for example, my wedding dress, which is the only floor-length gown I own and I’ve only worn twice) then I don’t mind it remaining in that category.

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Did I get married in Review?  Yes, yes I did.

However, if it is a more casual item, then there is no excuse for it to be hanging around if I’m not wearing it regularly, and that’s a sign to me that I should be selling it on or donating it.  I’m a really goal-orientated person, so if I set myself the goal of getting something out of my “only worn once” list, then by golly I will do it, whether by making myself wear it more often or getting rid of it and deleting it from the app.

It also helps me when I’m shopping, which is something I’ve been better at not doing this year but still really enjoy.  I have a rule that I’ll only buy something if it goes with at least three other things in my wardrobe (unless it is a dress or something for a special occasion).  With Stylebook, I can pull out my phone and check through my other clothes and go yes, it goes with these three things, so I can buy it.  I don’t have to waste valuable brain real estate on committing my current clothing stash to memory just to pick new items – my entire wardrobe is there in my hand.  For example, I just bought the Betty Bloom skirt from Review during their recent 30% of sale items promotion.

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Did I need another floral pencil skirt?  Probably not, but it is nice and long, which is hard to pass up for me.  Also, it was really, really on sale.  Never pay full price.  Words to live by.

Pulling out my app I can see that it will go with these four tops at least.

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Yes, they are all Review, and yes, I have a problem.  From left to right, the ivroy Royce, the Moore top, the Tasha top and the Isadora jumper.  None of them are the current season, but if you want to try and find them I recommend the Review Buy Swap Swell page on facebook.  It’s a goldmine.  

It’s not only going to go with a fair few things, but this means I know I can work it for both cold and hot weather.  I know I have others it will go with as well.

This app is also great for keeping track of my clothes.  Like everyone, I have pieces that I wear more often than others, and I tend to know where they are.  Pieces I love less sometimes go missing and I won’t immediately notice.  Stylebook reminds me of their existence so I go hunting for them and recover them from the back of drawers or the bottom of the laundry bin.

I also can’t get past the peace of mind it gives me to know what I am wearing in advance.  I check out my roster for the coming week, figure out what is happening on each day and select appropriate clothes.  For instance, on an office-only day in summer I would like to wear my lovely Veronika Maine culottes, but judges will look at me askance if I wear those to court, so I’ll pick a pencil skirt or dress trousers for those days instead.  If I’m having a flare-up, it also lets me plan soft, comfy clothes for the week so I know that I will be presentable with minimal effort and maximum comfort.  It also lets me challenge myself – for example, to celebrate spring I am wearing a floral every day through the month of September and aiming not repeat the floral item.  So far I have managed every day.  Last October, it was a dress every day for Frocktober.

Finally, this app is incredibly useful for packing.  I’m a massive overpacker for holidays despite being able to be totally frugal on bushwalks and hikes.   Using Stylebook I can create a little capsule wardrobe for wherever I’m headed and plan my outfits in advance based on my activities.  This helps me make sure that everything I pack goes with everything else and I don’t have any single-use items, except for special occasions.  I’m going to the UK next month, so I’ll post a packing list before I leave.

In conclusion, Stylebook is great and I have a lot of Review.  I do have a lot of Veronika Maine and Cue too, but because they don’t name their pieces the way Review does it’s really hard to find old stock photos so they don’t get added to Stylebook as much.   Anyway, for me this app has been totally worth the money as I use it on a daily basis and it helps me make more informed choices about what I buy and sell.

Do you have Stylebook?  Are you an Android user with an alternative you love?  Any other great fashion apps I should check out?  Let me know in the comments.

Make-up to Fake-up

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

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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!

Blue Knot: Vicarious Trauma

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 DayRUOK 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.

RUOK Day and the Cake of Doom

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.

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We had a crunchy chocolately base, a caramel ice-cream layer, a chocolate ice-cream layer, a vanilla ice-cream layer, chocolate drizzle, tahini-date caramel at the edge, chocolate hazelnut swirls, Ferrero Rocher bits, shards of chocolate, cacao nibs and cookie crumbs – all made from scratch!

I was up against some very stiff competition, though.  There were six cakes in all.

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I was tempted to try and steal that nice little chopping board.

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.

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Does anyone else always try and spell macadamia as “macademia”, like some bizarre cross between nuts and university research?

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.

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Doesn’t the “cheese” look disturbingly realistic?

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.

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Beautifully presented and it smelled AMAZING.

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.

Maltesers.JPG
The inside sponge was vegan so I did manage to nab a taste of that and it was admittedly delicious.  Why must I be surrounded by such talented women?

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.

Layers.JPG
A better look at the layers in my creation.

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.

Cake Wars

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!

Great Hair When You Don’t Care

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

Tuck and Cover Half 2

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

Lulus How-To: Knotty Updo Hair Tutorial at LuLus.com!

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

Hair Tutorial: Cotton Candy 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.

Fashionably Bald: Hair Removal and Endometriosis

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.

SHAVING

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.

CHEMICAL REMOVAL

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.

WAXING

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.

SUGARING

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.

EPILATING

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.

LASER

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.