Flying with Endometriosis Part 2: Carry-On

For many people, flying is already a nightmare.  For people with endometriosis, there’s an added layer of difficulty.  In this multi-part series, “Flying with Endometriosis”, I want to talk about some of things we can do to make travel a bit easier.

In my last post I talked about some of the things people with endometriosis can do before they travel to make the journey a little easier. But what should you take on the flight with you to help once you are in the air?

I’m going to list all the things I’ll be packing in my carry-on and why. It won’t all be endo-stuff, so hopefully this will be useful to everyone, but there will be plenty of endo-specific items on there.

Although I do want to try travelling with only a carry-on in future, that’s not feasible this time round as I’ll be having surgery and will need more items than I can fit in a carry-on. This post is therefore going to assume people are travelling with both a carry-on and checked luggage.

My carry-on bag is the Deluxe Handbag of Holding from ThinkGeek (unfortunately discontinued). It has lots of pockets, is comfy to carry and holds heaps of stuff. It also slides neatly into the overhead lockers, or, better yet, under the seat in front. For that reason I prefer it to a backpack, which can be more three-dimensionally bulky than a messenger bag.

Deluxe Handbag of Holding
Deluxe Handbag of Holding.  Note the many handy pockets.  

I’ll divide the contents up into “themes” within the back, using the different pockets and some clear makeup bags to corral all the different bits and make them easy to find.

Now, onto my list.  Buckle up, because it’s a long one!

ENTERTAINMENT

– A book. Kindles and e-readers are great, but we have a family tradition of treating ourselves to a new book when we go on a long-haul flight. It is nice to read something new and to give my eyes a break from the screen.

– A kindle, because I read quickly and there is no way one book will be enough, particularly whilst I’m recovering from surgery. It is easier on the eyeballs than a backlit screen and holds a charge for a million years.

– My phone. Music, books, movies, my blog, the internet, app games, and a useful tool all in one. To maximise its use I will also be taking my earbuds and a portable recharger pack, because iphones are battery-guzzlers and I use mine a lot.

– A puzzle book. I love sudoku, killer sudoku, kakuro and grid-based logic puzzles. These booklets are usually thin and light, but doing something on a hard copy is a nice change from electronic entertainment and helps stimulate my brain by giving it something different and a little challenging to work on.

– My journal and pencil case.  I’ll be able to write, doodle, plan, play noughts and crosses or hangman, and pass immature notes to my sister.

COMFORT

– Cosy socks. I’ll be wearing compression socks to reduce the chance of DVT (more on that later), but they aren’t very warm, planes are chilly and I have poor circulation. A pair of warm socks makes for a happy me.

– A blindfold and earplugs. Most airlines will provide these and they are really helpful in getting some shut-eye on the plane, especially if you, like me, sleep with a blindfold anyway.

– A travel pillow. For economy/premium economy, a neck/shoulder pillow that makes it possible to sleep in an upright position, as it will support your head from lolling uncomfortably to the side. There’s bucketloads of different styles out there, but I’ve chosen this one as I like how high it keeps my head and the fact that it doesn’t go behind the neck or across the throat. Although I may not need it on the flight it will be very useful on the trip to hospital. For people in business or first, you may not need a pillow at all, but I have used this one before and really liked it. It can also help bolster the slightly sad pillows they give you to sleep on.

– A blanket or shawl. I opt for the blanket in the above pillow/blanket combination. It’s thin and light but very warm. I get cold absurdly easily and get too cold on flights even with the blankets they provide, so an extra blanket is a must for me. I choose a blanket rather than a shawl as it covers all of me, but a shawl is more versatile as you can wear it and not look like a ninny.

Berocca. I love this stuff. For those not familiar with it, it is a multivitamin that dissolves fizzily in water. It comes in a few flavours (only berry and orange are readily available in Australia) and it is very refreshing. It perks me up far more easily than caffeine without the crash when it wears off. It’s healthier than coffee and has the added bonus of helping prop up your immune system with easily-absorbed vitamins.

– Painkillers of varying strengths. I will be taking everything from panadol and De-Gas to endone, just in case. If you are planning on taking the strong stuff, it is a good idea to have a letter from your doctor explaining that you have a legitimate reason to be carrying a small pharmacy of opioids.

– Heat patches. You can’t really take a microwaveable heat pack on a plane, but stick-on heat patches can give the same relief for a fraction of the room and don’t require external heating. Carry plenty. I’ll be wearing one on my lower back as a matter of course and carrying spares for my pelvis.

– Nasal drops and nasal spray. I get a very dry nose on flights because they are so dehydrating and I live in dread of that turning into (yet another) sinus infection. Nasal drops help get rid of congestion and the spray helps rehydrate those sore passages.

– Lozenges. Again, dry air, insufficient water – a sore throat is a strong possibility.

– A water bottle. You do get water on planes, but it comes in very small disposables cups or bottles. It simply isn’t enough to keep you hydrated. Taking a water bottle lets you have more water at a time without bothering the cabin crew every thirty seconds.

– Knee pillow. This isn’t something everyone will need, but I’m a side-sleeper and I need something between my knees to alleviate pressure on my back. I have a very old, very floppy pillow I use for this and I’m going to be terribly extravagant and take it with me. I can also use it as lumbar support, cushioning between my pelvis and a seatbelt, or just for clutching to my stomach as a comforting thing during a flare. It’s not for everyone, but for me it’s a must.

– A hair tie and hair brush.  I’ll be braiding my hair out of the way anyway, but hairties snap and get lost exactly when you need them not to, and it is always nice to have brushed hair.  Makes you feel a little more human when you stagger off the plane.

SKIN

– Face and body wipes. Air travel is exhausting and it is easy to end up clammy and gross-feeling. Being able to clean up either at a stopover or in the airport loo can make you feel so refreshed and more awake.

– Mist toner. Whenever I wash my face I always follow up with a toner. I’ll be taking my Skinstitut mist, which is not only a toner but can also be used as a refreshing spray under or over makeup and smells divine. A little spritz can help wake you up and help you stay feeling fresh in between washes or stops.

– Night cream.  Because it is heavier than a day moisturiser it is better at standing up to the beating your skin takes on a long flight.  I’ll be taking this one from ELF as my normal Sukin one, whilst amazing, is in a big heavy tub.

– Lip balm.  Again, airline = dehydration = chapped lips.  I’ll be using a tinted one from Hurraw to add a little colour to otherwise uniform pasty white of my face.

– Sheet masks.  Yes, it’s a bit extra, but I’m going to be on those planes for a long time and a little extra moisture and luxury never goes astray.  I am determined not to look the way I normally do when I stumble off a long flight – like an ashen, pasty-faced zombie.  I will have glowing skin, darn it!

– Eye roller.  I just use this little doodad from ELF, which instantly refreshes and cools my puffy eye bags.  It’s just really nice and takes up basically no room, so for me it is totally worth it.

– Concealer and brow powder.  The only makeup I’m taking.  I just want to be able to cover the inevitable enormous pimple that will arise during the flight and fill my brows in, because that makes me feel a little more put together and with it when I land, which in turn makes me feel more awake, confident and ready to deal with the jetlag.

– Hand sanitiser.  Planes are filthy and you don’t necesarily want to wait in a queue to wash your hands before your food comes, especially if you get trapped by the food trolley and have to wait ten million years to get back to your seat.

– Hand cream.  Dehydration, etc etc.

– Deodorant.  For the sake of your fellow passengers, please.

– Toothbrush and toothpaste.  Some airlines give it out, some don’t.  I want to take my own toothpaste in any case, so I know that it is vegan, cruelty-free, low-abrasion and contains fluoride.

MISCELLANEOUS

– Spare undies, because when you have endo you never know what your body will surprise you with.  Also, luggage can get lost.

– A spare top and leggings.  I’ll be taking these leggings and this long-sleeved top from Boody.  These items are incredibly thin and lightweight and take up very little room, but they are warm, soft and incredibly comfortable.  The leggings I won’t wear without something covering my bottom as they are a touch see-through, but these will double as a change of clothes in an emergency, and will function as pjs if my luggage goes AWOL for a while.  They are also great for an extra layer of warmth if I get even colder than anticipated on the plane or when we land.  I plan to buy several more of those tops.

– Sanitary pads.  See above re underpants.  Also, it’s nice to be able to have one to hand if another person finds themselves in period-related difficulties without adequate supplies.  Tampon or cup users will want to bring those instead.

– Passport, tickets and wallet (duh).

I think that more or less covers it!  I will no doubt think of extra things I want to take, forget to pack something, or change my mind at the last minute, but this is my list as it currently stands.  Anything you would add to it?  Anything that you have found really helps your endometriosis travel a little easier?  Anywhere you think I’m being totally OTT?  Let me know!

 

 

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!

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.

My cake 1.JPG
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.

Banana and raspberry.JPG
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.

White chocolate and macademia.JPG
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.

Hamburger.JPG
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.

Chocolate and raspberry.JPG
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.

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.

A Day of Gratitude

It’s the first day of spring!  My mood has been slowly creeping towards the positive with the fresh smell in the air and the gradual increase in temperature, and now spring is finally here!  I’m celebrating it by making resolutions I probably won’t keep, but also by following on from last month and starting September in a positive way, with a gratitude post!  I want to kick this month off with a list of ten things that I am grateful for.  I challenge you to do the same thing, whether in your diary, here in the comments or on your own blog or facebook page.

Without any further ado, today I am grateful for:

1) Spring!

Yes, I know I kind of said this already, but I love spring.  It fills me with hope and a yearning to be outdoors.  In my mind it’s all flowers and lazy bees and warm days that aren’t too hot yet.

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Look at these happy little bees buzzing around in my rosemary.  

2) Work

I may not get there every day and it can be stressful as all heck, but I adore my colleagues and the work I do can be really fulfilling.  It can also be silly and trivial and you wonder why some people think that they need a lawyer to sort it out, but the feeling when a terrified women walks out of court with a piece of legal protection she didn’t have before, or a confused man who had no understanding of what he could do suddenly has a clear pathway to follow, and you gave it to them?  That’s pretty good.  It’s those moments that really make it for me, when people are staring at this confusing, tangled legal pathway and you can just go, “Here’s what you do,” and they suddenly have a clear path to follow.

3) Dr Edi-Osagi

I mentioned last week that I had an appointment with the good doctor via Skype.  More recently I received his reporting letter about the appointment, and I nearly cried.  He included every detail I told him about my pain, laid out a clear treatment plan, and noted that my quality of life is low.  I’ve never had a doctor do that for me before in such detail, or draw such a conclusion.  I didn’t even tell him I thought I had a low quality of life; he examined what I told him and drew that conclusion for himself.  It was the most validating experience and I have never felt so listened to or supported by a medical professional before, even if it turns out down the track that he won’t be able to assist me.

4) My animals

They are such a constant source of joy for me.  Every morning when Pearl comes out of her bedroom (the laundry) she does a little butt-wiggling stretch and then shoves her head into my chest for a cuddle.  When we get home from work, she dances around us with her silly little corgi paws all over the place, doing that thing dogs do where they really want cuddles but are too excited to stand still for them.

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Basking in the sunshine. 10/10 good dog.

Every day Max jumps up on the sofa to sit with me or on me and looks at me with that perfect ginger face, and purrs like a little steam train.  Each morning when I get up he throws himself dramatically down at my feet and rolls around on his back for tummy scratches.  He’s impossibly cute and I love him.

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As a lawyer, can confirm: it would be illegal not to kiss that little face.

5) My mum

Pretty much as soon as she got back from her overseas trip she was right back into the swing of supporting and helping me in every way she could.  From walking me and the dog to bringing me my microwave (which had been living with her) and just straight up emotional support, she is pretty much the bestest.

6) My husband

He works so hard and still finds the emotional energy to support and help me and the physical energy to walk the dog, do the bulk of the housework and keep fit and healthy.  He’s superman.  I don’t know how he does it.  He also makes the most amazing meals.

7) Small luxuries

This morning I had fresh berries on my cereal.  Tomorrow night I’m going to have a long relaxing bath with a face mask.  Yesterday I burnt my coconut Dusk candle and basked in its tropical smell as I made a really cool calendar page for September in my bullet journal.  This morning my dress has this little bit of tulle just at the base of the skirt and it feels so fancy.

Image result for review alouette dress
My fancy dress (Review’s Alouette Dress) as modelled on the Iconic by this stunning lady

8) Snails having baths

Just google it.  It’s adorable.  It made my heart sing this morning.

9) The Llandor Trilogy

My sister and I read this series of books about fifteen years ago, but over time we forgot what they were called.  We couldn’t even really remember the plot, just random elements; a boy and a girl get sucked into a fantasy world.  The girl wants to be a hairdresser.  The boy wants to work in IT.  They had adventures including a banshee in an underground cave, rock giants, and a black mage that the girl accidentally killed by shoving him off a cliff, except maybe he didn’t die because he could turn into some sort of bird of prey (but we couldn’t remember what).  We tried every google combination we could think of over many years, asked facebook friends, tried Yahoo Answers, and eventually, exactly one year ago today, we finally hit on the right google combination and discovered that the books were the Llandor Trilogy (and that there were actually three children, not two).  It was quite possibly the single most cathartic experience of my entire life.

I’m going to celebrate by reading the series again, starting today.

10) This blog and you, my lovely readers

I never actually thought anyone would read this blog.  I thought I’d write for a while with maybe 2 followers, then get bored and stop.  Instead, 2 months after starting it I have 41 followers.  It may not be many in the grand scheme of internet pages, but I am incredibly grateful for each and every one of you and you are the reason I will continue writing.  It tells me that there are people who are interested in endometriosis and that it is worth writing about.  So thank you, my wonderful people.  I hereby commit to a giveaway of some sort when we reach 100.  I’m working on ideas (but feel free to drop some more in the comments).

 

So what are you grateful for today?  What little things have made your heart sing?  Are you excited for September?

 

Bullet Journalling for Endometriosis

Yesterday I gave a brief, if somewhat slapdash, introduction into bullet journalling.  That was really just groundwork for this post, because I really believe that bullet journalling can be incredibly useful to people with endometriosis.  It can perform the function of a normal journal in helping us keep on top of all our various appointments.  However, thanks to the fact that a bullet journal is totally customisable and the addition of the ever popular tracking spreads, you can also keep on top of every other aspect for it.

I’ve considered starting a totally separate journal for endo.  This would include a brief chronology of important dates, such as surgeries, when I started on new medications, appointments with different specialists etc.  Then I’d have pages with information about the meds I’m on, the side effects etc, and dates relevant to that med (such as dates I noted particular side effects and their severity).  After that I’d have trackers dedicated to different symptoms; gastric pain, uterine pain, backache, gastritis, misc., and line them up with particular triggers, if any.  I’d also keep a mood/mental health page.  Finally I think I’d have a journal section where I could write anything I wanted – reviews of doctors, rants about pain, a diary of my hopes and fears, and little pictures and quotes that feel relevant.

Damn, now I really want to do that.  I’m going to need another Leuchtturm.

Right now, however, I just have two trackers.  Trackers are super useful because not only do they record information your treating team may need later, they also help you identify patterns.  I started with one but kind of abandoned that partway through February because it turns out I am not very good at checking in with things at the beginning of my diary, only in the section I’m actually in.

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As you can see, this tracker covered the whole year (optimistic) and relies on colour codes.  Each day has a rectangle made of two squares  On one half I record my symptoms (if any), and on the other my triggers (if any).  It was a good idea but I’ve found it has some draw backs.  It doesn’t record the severity of the pain, it’s a little smaller than I’d like, and I didn’t choose my colours particularly well, so it can be hard to tell what’s what.

This month I’ve been using a pain level tracker each week instead.

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The red line is the maximum pain I experience that day, and the black line is how I felt the pain was in general (not including the moments of extreme pain unless that is a significant portion of the day).  Whilst this does a great job of recording my pain levels, of course, it lacks what my other tracker had in terms of symptoms, triggers etc.  This one can’t specify between the different types of pain, either, so I need to note that down in my daily log.

This month I’ve also started keeping two separate habit trackers.  One is for habits that are just good personal development, such as practising my German and wearing perfume so my massive collection doesn’t just moulder ignored in a drawer somewhere.  It also tracks which days I’m too sick to go to work.

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The other is for habits that are vital to my self care – brushing my teeth twice a day, washing my face, brushing my hair, getting sunshine – all the little things that shouldn’t present a challenge but are usually the first things to go when I start to struggle.  This has definitely been super useful and I’m going to keep it up for the rest of the year.

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I don’t currently have a period tracker, but I don’t have periods, so there isn’t much point.  However, many people do, and you can get really fun with them

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Fantastic “Shark Week” tracker by Mieke Bjins.  How gorgeous is the little shark?

So far this tracker only tracks flow rate, but you could also mark pill usage, ovulation, the beginning of pain etc by using other symbols or colours.

Other people like to track their moods in detail.  That can be important as it shows whether a pattern of negative moods is developing in your life, which may suggest that it is time to seek professional assistance with it.  However, I know that some people say they don’t find mood trackers helpful as it leads them to obsess over their state of mind and make it worse.

I’ve never tried a mood tracker, but I like the idea of something like this:

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To read the full text, visit Shaylara Shen’s site where she shows her daily spreads.

In this spread Sheylara takes the space and time to chronicle her negative thoughts and her struggle, but also her wins for the day.  I think this a great holistic way of approaching it.

Do you use your journal to track your endometriosis or other chronic health conditions?  How about mental heath?  Or do you prefer simply to journal about it?  Whatever you do, please drop a picture or instagram link in the comments!

Bullet Journalling for Beginners

Have you heard of bullet journalling?  Originally I thought it was just some mad hipster trend (maybe it is) but I’m pretty well hooked.  I want to talk today about the basics of bullet journalling, and tomorrow I’ll go into more detail about how it can help with endometriosis.

I’m a naturally chaotic person.  I forget things that aren’t written down.  I find setting reminders in my phone to be clunky and awkward, and I never check it when I do, so I’m always surprised to see a notification popping up and leaving me no time to prepare.  I need a diary, a planner.  At the same time, though, I want an actual journal with room to write down thoughts and feelings as well as my to-dos and events.  I want blank space to doodle if I’m feeling creative or want to plan out a new layout for my fish tank.

Enter the bullet journal, a system that serves as all of the above.

The Symbols

The way a bullet journal works is through the use of coded symbols to denote what is what.  It uses six main symbols.  I’ll show you an example of how a weekly schedule could look:-

Monday

  • Call doctor

< Pick up dry cleaning

Tuesday

O French class, 7pm

>  Call Anna

Wednesday

  • Pick up dry cleaning

–  Had coffee with Daniel, talked about trip next week

X Call Anna

From that example you can see we have the symbols:

X

>

<

O

Each of them signifies a different type of thing that you are putting in the journal.

  • A task that needs to be completed

X  A task that has been completed

>  A task that I didn’t complete today, so I’m shifting it to tomorrow to try again (aka “migrating”, in the official bullet journal parlance)

< A task that I can’t to today, so I am scheduling to do on a particular date in the future when I know I’ll get to it

O  An event

–  A note

In my own journal, I’ve added in a heart for things I’m grateful for and a star for things I’ve achieved.  The idea is that you write out all these symbols in a key in the front of your journal so you can always check what’s what.  You may find you don’t use all of them.  Personally I almost never use the “schedule” symbol because I just end up migrating stuff to the next day to see if I can do it then.

The Pages

In addition to your key, your standard bullet journal needs a couple of other pages to make it super useful.  First is the future log.  This is an overview of the entire year.  Here you can jot down dates that you know will be coming up, such as birthdays, anniversaries, public holidays, or events that get planned months in advance.

Next is the monthly log.  It’s basically the same as the future log, but only for one month, and can be more detailed.  I find that writing something in the future log at the beginning of the year and then checking it and re-writing things in my monthly log also helps remind me that they are coming up.

Then, you have the daily log, where you put your tasks, notes and events for that day go.

Last (although I perhaps should have mentioned it first) is the index.  It typically goes at the front of the journal and you fill it in as you go.  For instance, your future log may be on pages 5-9.  Wack that in.  You can put in whatever pages you want to be able to find quickly and list them in your index.

In a nutshell, that’s the original bullet journal concept.  However, the great thing about this journal is that you can turn it into whatever you want.

The Style

Want your daily logs to be prepared and only take up a certain amount of room per day?  Can do.  Prefer more of a go-with-the-flow approach and are happy to let days spill over as little or as much space as they need?  It’s your journal and you can make it how you like.

Prefer your monthlies to take a calendar format?  Here you are.  Would rather just a list?  That’s fine too.

Enjoy hugely elaborate spreads?  Boy, has Pinterest got some suggestions for you.

Dobby Weekly by Raphaela Winterhalter, elas_bullet_journey.jpg
Incredibly themed weekly spread by Raphaela Winterhalter.  For more of these incredible designs follow @elas_bullet_journey on instagram.  This gorgeous spread let its creator do a bit of art, demonstrate a love of Harry Potter, and still have room for daily tasks and events.  Used with permission.

Prefer a minimalist approach?  Pinterest and Instagram has you covered for those too.

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Rocio Munez’s pretty spread is probably much more within the realms of possibility for most of us, utilising cute succulent stickers and some highlighters to get a neat, functional but still attractive layout.  Follow Rocio on instagram: @minimalbujoist

Many journallers will also use their bullet journal to track things – periods, sleep, weather, their moods, their habits, their spending, how much they’ve paid off their bills, their weight or measurements, their schedule for chores, or their school, uni or work timetables.  You can list what books you want to read this year, and what movies you aim to see.  You can summarise your year or your month, keep a gratitude log, set goals for yourself, or even just use it as a traditional diary and journal about your thoughts and feelings.  It is whatever you want to make it.

I’ve played around a fair bit with mine.  I started keeping one in January 2017, and used only black and green ink (green for headings, black for everything else).  I stuck to a very basic format and didn’t lay out my weeks in advance.

This year I’ve been a lot more experimental and included a lot more pages.  I’ve gone wild with colour.  Unfortunately, I’ve found I don’t have the time to keep up with elaborate spreads and have moved back to more basic ones.  However, I do like laying out my week in advance as it lets me schedule tasks better, and I can keep a separate page at the end of each month for journalling.

The equipment

What do you actually need to make a bullet journal?  Really, just a journal and a pen.  Dotted journals are the most used and are what were intended to go along with the original idea.  My favourites are the Leuchtturm 1917, but Scribbles That Matter and Moleskine are also very popular.  I’d also get a pencil, eraser and ruler to help map things out before you commit it to pen.

If you want to get a bit fancier, have a look at brush pens, calligraphy pens, stamps, washi tape and stencils.  All of these can jazz up a page, and thankfully stamps and stencils require literally no skill to use.  AliExpress is a source of cheap bullet journal accessories, but you are probably more assured of an ethical buy from independent shops such as those on Etsy.  I like Stampin’ Up for inks and stamps, but they do tend to suck you in with their gorgeous matchy colour schemes so you feel like you need all of them.

Super cute bookshelf washi tape from Washi Wednesday on Etsy.    This would be perfect to decorate a list of books to read for the year.

That covers the basics of bullet journalling (the very basics).  For more information I recommend the original Bullet Journal site or this Buzzfeed post.  If you are looking for inspiration, Pinterest and Instagram have heaps, but don’t be put off by the picture-perfect journal spreads on there – most of us have far more mundane, less instagrammable journals.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about how bullet journalling can be useful for people with endo specifically.  In the meantime, do you keep a journal?  Have you tried bullet journalling?  What’s your style?  Share your pictures in the comments.

Staying Strong

So far in this mini-series I’ve talked about staying grateful and staying generous when we are faced with challenges that make it very hard to do that.  Today I want to talk about how we stay strong.

I think this is probably the hardest thing of all.  I can generally find something I’m grateful for even in the midst of despair – usually especially in the midst of despair – such as love, or morphine.  I don’t find it hard to give my time and energy to people because I literally do it for a living.  However, I do find it hard to pull myself out of depressive slumps and keep going.  We don’t get to use little mantras like “this too shall pass”, because it probably won’t.  We might not be able to exercise to get those endorphins pumping.  So what can we do?  More specifically, given that I’m neither a motivational speaker or a counsellor, what works for me and might work for you?

1) Accepting the situation

And right away we’ve got the hardest thing on the list.  Accepting what the situation is rally hard for me, because it requires me to walk a weird line between hoping that things will get better but also not dwelling on the fact that they aren’t, whilst being clear with myself that they might not, but not despairing about that.  It’s like being in a washing machine sometimes.  It doesn’t mean fatalism or pessimism; it just means dealing with the hand we are dealt right now and learning to live with it.  That being said, I still advocate…

2) Working to change it

Accepting the situation doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be working on getting better.  Keep checking with your specialist (or multiple specialists) about alternatives, clinical trials, advances, anything that will progress your ability to manage endometriosis.

3) Having a purpose

Setting goals is one thing that makes me keep going.  I will not give in because I haven’t done X, Y or Z yet.  Sometimes they are long-term things, like making it through a year of work and going up a pay grade, or growing this blog to 100 followers with a giveaway to celebrate (let me know in the comments in that is something you’d like).  Sometimes it is smaller things, like to give this new medication a go, or to make it to the next long weekend and reassess.  As long as I have a reason to keep pushing through, it makes it a little easier.  Right now I’ve got my eyes on two weeks hence, when I’ll meet with Dr Edi-Osagie again to see if the Zoladex is working and determine whether surgery is the next step.  Having something in the future that I am focused on makes it easier to push through the present, which is mostly a weird stabbing pain in my…bladder?  Uterus?  Can’t really tell.

4) Staying as positive as possible

As I said in my last two posts, being happy makes it easier to deal with the bad stuff.  Training your brain into a more positive mindset isn’t a foolproof, 100% guarantee that you’ll always be happy, but it helps.

5) Treating myself well

Whether it is looking after myself physically by taking my medication and vitamins, keeping myself mentally healthy by being kind and forgiving to myself, or just plain spoiling myself on occasion, I find it much easier to make it through a week when I’m doing those things than when I’m not.  My journey’s hard enough; no point making it harder.

6) Keeping occupied

When you are stuck at home just doing one thing all the time it becomes really easy not to do anything at all.  I try to switch it up as often as possible.  Rather than watch several episodes of a show back-to-back I’ll go outside for 10 minutes after one, or get on the floor to hug my dog, or go and write something on my blog.  Mind games like Sudoku or logic puzzles are good to keep the old brain-motor running as it should.  Having an app to switch to for a little while, or a book, or doing some journalling or doodling is great.  The more you do the harder it is to sink into a depressive state (and the more you sink into a depressive state, the harder you will find it to switch up activities).  If I binge-watch a series, no matter how excellent, I won’t stop, and I’ll hate myself for it, and that will make me feel useless, and then I’ll be useless.  Breaking it up with other activities makes me feel more productive and active.

7) Asking for help

I’ve already talked about how I couldn’t have made it through the past few years without a support network.  Sometimes, I’m not feeling so strong.  Either I have no hope for the future, or feel like I can’t bear up under the pain any more, or simply need help taking the load off for a bit so I can get into a healthier mindset without the stress of undone tasks.  Asking friends and family to pitch in with some emotional support or practical help lets me do that.

8) Letting my worries out

Whether by writing them down, talking them over or praying them away, analysing my fears lets me take control over them and prevent them from controlling me.  If I know what my fear is I can step on it by asking, “So what?”  That’s kind of how this blog started.  I was telling myself, “I’m going to get fired because of my health.  I’ll lose my entire career and never be a lawyer ever again.”  Then I said to myself, “So what if that happens?  What will I do?”  “Ella,” I said, “I’ll start a blog.  That way I’ll have something to keep me busy and maybe one day I can even use it as a business.”  (There was a bit more emotional drama in between those sentences, but you get the gist).

Of course, this doesn’t always work.  Sometimes there is no solution to the worry so I’ll focus instead on letting it go, only to find it comes buzzing back in like that annoying little fly you’re sure you saw fly out of the window a minute ago.  Trying is important, though.

9) Staying hopeful (but not too hopeful)

If you pin all your hopes on a particularly solution, you will be crushingly devastated when it fails.  However, a bit of cautious optimism lets you aim for the faint light at the end of the tunnel, and means you aren’t absolutely broken when you find out it was a vital part of the tunnel infrastructure catching fire instead.  A little bit of hope makes it easier to get through the bad stuff because there is the possibility it might get better.

10) Preparing

Even if I don’t go out, I make sure to do certain things as if I will.  Every day I wash my face, brush my hair and clean my teeth.  It’s not much and it is something most people take for granted, I suspect.  However, those three little things make me feel more human, give me a small sense of purpose and achievement, and ensure that I don’t look and smell in the event that someone knocks on the door.  Even if I’m in my pjs, it gives me a small sense of self-possession I would otherwise lack, and it’s that small sense that helps me feel like I’m more competent, more confident, and therefore stronger.

 

What do you do to get through the really tough bits?  Any mantras or quotes that help you?  Let me know in the comments.