February Gratitude

CW: pregnancy, body image

As I mentioned in January, one post I really want to try and commit to each month this year is a list of things I am grateful for.  It is actually quite challenging.  Although I’m generally a positive person who lives life at a level I would call “content”, and only occasionally swing into bouts of terror and sadness, this is quite a challenge for me, particularly since I want to put my animals and my family on every list and I have set myself the challenge to be grateful for new things every month.  Anything that stretches my ability to be grateful, however, I suspect is a good challenge.  Practice, after all, makes perfect.

1)  fLash Lash

This may sound terribly superficial, but since we’ve already established that I am I’m going to plough right ahead anyway.  My friend put me on to this lash serum.  I was really sceptical at first because the idea of a lash serum just sounds really gimmicky to me.  However, I’ve been using it for about a month now, and it works!  My lashes are actually longer.  I tried to take a before and after, but unfortunately my before is really blurry so it’s extremely hard to see any sort of difference.  The difference isn’t huge – certainly nothing as dramatic as the pictures on the website –  but it is noticeable, and I love it.  I will definitely be repurchasing this one.  (And no, sadly this is not a sponsored post and I do not get any money from spruiking the wonders of fLash Lash).

2) Maternity jeans

I’m not pregnant, but I am now a sworn devotee of maternity jeans.  I’ve never actually tried them before, although I have written about them as I know other endo-warriors who wear them.  Now I’m not sure I ever want to wear anything else.  I tried on this pair yesterday and was blown away.

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Image description: a pair of legs wearing black skinny jeans with a rip on each knee standing in a Scandi-style room with a white crib.  There is a wooden window seat next to the legs with a cream cushion and a grey throw.

They look like jeans, but they feel like leggings and they are so soft and comfy on the belly.  They are actually quite flattering, and I say this as someone who has always felt very self-conscious about the width of her hips in leggings and skinny jeans.  With a pair of biker boots they are positively badass.  Badass comfort – what more could you possibly want?  You could fight crime and look cool in these things.

3)  New friends

Whilst I still miss my friends from my old workplace, particularly my fLash Lash friend and another lovely woman who left a few months before I did, I am delighted to have found such incredible people at my new job.  They are mostly women, and they are all wonderful – friendly, helpful, chatty, hardworking, collaborative, and always up for a jaunt to the local coffee shop or grocer.  They’ve made me feel so at home.  Great colleagues make for a great job even when the work isn’t tops, and I love the work too, so it’s great all round.

4)  My employer’s attitude to disability

Although I have thankfully not had to put it to the test in a “I’ve only worked three hours in the last month” sort of way, my employer so far seems really pro-disability and supportive of disabled staff.  We get personalised desk assessments (everyone, disabled or otherwise) and if you have a pre-existing condition they get in a physio or other specialist to do it.  Mine has resulted in a better chair and an extra plug so I can have my electric heat pack plugged in at my desk.  This means no more awkward trips to and from the kitchen every forty minutes juggling a piping hot wheat bag that will be painfully hot at first and then cool down annoyingly quickly.  This hugely increases my ability to stay at my desk working.  It makes such a difference.

5)  Cool weather

I don’t do terribly well in the heat.  I am too white for days much above 30 degrees.  I like a gentle cool breeze on a warm 27-28 degree day.  English summers are largely perfect, in my eyes.  Summers here are dry and baking and seem to parch the moisture right out of you, except when it is stormy in which case they are hot and sweaty but still leave you really thirsty and dry on the inside.  Thankfully, February has largely seen a move to more gentle temperatures.  As I write this, we’re expecting a top of 24.  Perfect.  Love it.  I know I’ll be having the opposite feeling come winter, but right now I’m happy as the proverbial clam.

6)  Nice hair

It’s not always nice, but yesterday I got a haircut and now it’s just spiffy.  It’s great while it lasts and it makes me happy.  It smells nice, too.

7)  Adventurous tomatoes

I didn’t plant any tomatoes this year.  My plants just ran riot last year and I had more tomatoes than I could comprehend, so I thought I’d give them a miss this year.  Despite this, I have four or five tomato plants sprouting in the garden, including one that is growing in the cracks of the pavement again.  They are plucky and determined plants, and I’m actually pretty excited because I do like tomatoes.  I also have a single brave chili growing in my Vegepod.  I’d forgotten I even planted chillis (did I plant chillis?  Is it even a chilli?  We’ll find out when I cut it open, I suppose).

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Image description: my hand, holding six slightly oval little tomatoes.  One has a green stem on it.  There is dirt on some of them and on my fingers because they are fresh from the garden.

8)  Valentine’s Day

Like most people, I’m not a huge fan of the commercialism that inevitably springs up around days like this.  However, I am a fan of the idea of love persevering, and a brave man helping couples marry in secret.  I also like the reminder it brings to have a special date with my husband and take an evening to really cherish our relationship.  We’ve endured a lot together and it’s really important for us to make happy memories too.

9)  The Done app

As you may know from my previous mention of my dairies, I’ve switched from a bullet journal to a more traditional (but also very fullsome) planner this year.  One other thing I’ve done is make my habit tracker digital.  There’s an app called Done which allows you to track 5 habits for free, or as many as you like for $6.99.  I paid for the full suite.  I’m sticking to tracking my habits far more effectively when it’s on my phone, and it is actually easier to view trends there.

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Image description: text that reads, “Track any goal or Habit.  Track an activity multiple times a day, week, month or year.”  Beneath that is a grey silhouette of a phone.  On the screen it says, “Done”.  Beneath that are five bars.  A partially-filled yellow one says “Wake Up Early: 3.  This week, 03/04 mornings”.  A partially filled red one says “Workout: 5.  This month: 08/10 sessions.”  A partially-filled bright blue one says “Drink Water: 3.  Today: 04/08 glasses.”  A partially-filled lilac one says, “Meditation: 3.  Weekly: 02/03 sessions.”  A fully-filled blue one says, “Less coffee: 5.  Today: 00/02 cups max.”

When you have reached your goal for the day/week/month/whatever, the bar fully fills up.  The number on the right refers to your streak of how many days/weeks/months in a row you’ve managed the habit.  It’s quite motivating and really quick to do.

10) Finally getting over this cold (I hope)

This darn cold is dragging on and on and on, as they always do when you have an immune system as useful as the male nipple.  However, I think it might finally be going away.  I can feel something almost like energy waving a tentative hand in my direction, and my headache is only dizzying instead of catastrophic.  Progress!

 

 

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:

Image result for jeremy renner makeup gif

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!

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.