Kindness Quotes

This post is spectacularly late!  I’m sorry for the long gap between posts – I’ve been really struggling with sickness and pain management recently and it has left me with no spoons for writing.  I’ve been struggling with trying to get the balance of my latest medication (Prostap) right, and have had my tentative diagnosis of adenomyosis confirmed by MRI.  I have a lot of half-finished drafts sitting there, but I’m going to kick things off with my collation of daily quotes that I used during March.

Kindness is a big theme in my life – not because I always manage it, but because I always want to be kinder than I am.  There are so many things to be kind to in this world – yourself, other people, animals, the planet, people you love and people you hate.  To me it is vitally important.  My biggest failing in trying to achieve kindness is my tendency to gossip.  Sure, I’m not criticising someone to their face so arguably it can’t hurt them, but I think being kind in that kind of consequence-free environment is a far greater mark of character than refraining from being unkind to people face-to-face, where the fear of repercussions is greater.  Also, do unto others, etc.  I’m working on it, but I still find myself doing it a lot.

I also really suck at being kind to myself sometimes – don’t we all – and that’s an area I’m doing my darndest to work on.  As part of that, I’ve recently joined a gym (Fernwood finally seduced me with their persistence and a good deal on price) and am having some PT sessions to get my body back on track without hurting myself (or at least, without hurting my endo.  My muscles hate me right now).

I want to preface this by saying that I don’t agree without reservation with all of the quotes here, but generally speaking I think they all have a good message, and that some are incredibly important to remember.

Now, without further rambling:

  1. “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”  – Aesop
  2. “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”  – Audrey Hepburn
  3. “Kindness in words creates confidence.  Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.  Kindness in giving creates love.”  – Lao Tzu
  4. “Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like.  More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.”  – Dennis Prager
  5. “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.  A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”  – Saint Basil
  6. “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  7. “I’ve been searching for a way to heal myself, and I’ve found that kindness is the best way.”  – Lady Gaga
  8. “Love and kindness are never wasted.  They always make a difference.  They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.”  – Barbara De Angelis
  9. “You can tell by the kindness of a dog how a human should behave.”  – Captain Beefheart
  10. “Contact kindness can accomplish much.  As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”  – Albert Schweitzer
  11. “Just imagine how different the world could be if we all spoke to everyone with respect and kindness.”  – Holly Branson
  12. “I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.”  – Khalil Gibran.
  13. “Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.”  – Samuel Johnson
  14. “Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.”  – Theodore Isaac Rubin
  15. “Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.”  – George Sand
  16. “I make mistakes daily, letting generalisations creep into my thoughts and negatively effect my behaviour.  These mistakes have taught me that the first step to successfully choosing kindness is being more mindful about it, letting go of impatience and intolerance along the way.”  – Daniel Lubetzky
  17. “The true greatness of a person, in my view, is evident in the way he or she treats those with whom courtesy and kindness are not required.”  – Joseph B Wirthlin
  18. “Human kindness have never weakened the stamina or softened the fibre of a free people.  A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.”  – Franklin D Roosevelt
  19. “Transparency, honesty, kindness, good stewardship, even humour, work in business at all times.”  – Humphry Davy
  20. “The man who practices unselfishness, who is genuinely interested in the welfare of others, who feels it is a privilege to have the power to do a fellow creature a kindness – even though polished manners and a gracious presence may be absent – will be an elevating influence wherever he goes.”  – Orison Swett Marden
  21. “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.”  – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
  22. “Treat everyone with respect and kindness.  Period.  No exceptions.”  – Kiana Tom
  23. “Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you may as well do it with generosity and kindness and style.”  – Rebecca Solnit
  24. “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”  – William Wordsworth
  25. “You will never have a completely bad day if you show kindness at least once.”  – Greg Henry Quin
  26. “Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.”  – Harold S Kushner
  27. “Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.”  – Bob Kerney
  28. “Strong people don’t put others down…they lift them up.”  – Michael P Watson
  29. “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”  – James Keller
  30. “Do not let kindness and truth leave you.  Tie them around your neck as a reminder; write them deep within your heart.”  – Proverbs 3:3
  31. “Consistent acts of kindness trump random acts of kindness.”  – Anonymous

How have you tried to be kind to yourself or others this month?  What about going forward?  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.

Staying Generous

Yesterday I wrote about how to stay grateful in a situation where there is so much against us.  Today I want to talk about how we can stay generous when we are already lacking in money, struggling physically, and devoting most of our emotional energy to caring for ourselves.

Most forms of generosity involve giving your money, your time, or your emotional labour.  Donating to charity, helping friends move house or listening to people discuss their problems are all common forms of generosity.  Being generous is something that feels good, makes people like you and is just a nice thing to be.  However, it can also be seriously draining.  So, what are some things that people with endo can do?  Here’s a few ideas…

  1. Engage in online advocacy, including sharing and signing petitions.  It generally only takes a few clicks so it isn’t a huge amount of energy required, but it helps promote good causes.
  2. If you have the spare cash, invest in a charity that helps you help a lot of people for a small amount, like Kiva.  You can lend a certain amount of money to a cause of your choice.  The person you loan it to then pays it back over time, so you can reinvest it in a new cause.  It’s not a commitment to a monthly scheme and it means you only have to give the money you have, which you will get back.
  3. Participate in fundraisers that don’t require too much from you.  Many fundraisers involve sponsored walks, runs or cycles.  Others, like Frocktober (to raise money for ovarian cancer research) or Dressember (to raise funds to combat human trafficking) simply require you to wear a dress each day.  I managed Frocktober last year and raised around $700, which I couldn’t have done if I was required to, say, walk for an hour a day.  I won’t be able to do it this year as I’ll be in the UK and I want to wear pants to travel, so I might give Dressember a go instead.
  4. Practice being generous with the people closest to you.  Maybe you can’t afford to take your partner for a romantic date, but can you offer a back massage or a foot rub?  If your best friend is struggling at work, listen to them and talk to them.  Be their shoulder to cry on.  It’s easier to expend emotional energy when you care about the person you are doing it for.  If you still have something left, give more or expand the circle of people you support.
  5. Support your endo-fellows.  One thing that warms my heart in the local facebook endo support group is to see people generously offering to drop in care packages, emergency supplies or even just company to others in hospital.  If you are up to a drive, consider that.
  6. Educate.  If there is a cause you are passionate and knowledgeable about and you want to share it with people, go for it.
  7. Volunteer at things where you can sit down.  Perhaps it is manning a stall at an event or festival, or doing a bit of face-painting at a school fete (although a word of warning as a former professional facepainter: it is KILLER on the back and shoulder muscles).  Is there a phone service you could help with?  If it is something physical within your ability to take it on, why not?
  8. Compliment people!  I’m not saying to be insincere, but doesn’t a nice compliment just make your day a little brighter?  If you like someone’s outfit, tell them.  If you think their work today was just fantastic, tell them.  It doesn’t take much from you but it might make a big difference to them.
  9. Forgive people.  A lot of people will say insensitive stuff about endometriosis or about you.  Generosity includes forgiving people for that, even when it hurts and is frustrating.  That doesn’t mean you have to keep hanging around that person, excuse their wrong or forget what was said, but it does mean you stop dwelling on it and being angry at them for it.  It’s good for you, too.

There are, of course, some things you should remember with this.  Rules, if you will.

  1. Whilst true generosity may include giving up things you want, it should not include giving up things you need.  Ensure that you have enough money set aside for medical expenses, food and rent before you give it away.  If you’re anything like me, you don’t know if you’ll be able to work sufficiently in the future to make up any deficit.
  2. Don’t overdo it.  It’s not much good helping someone for one day and going all out only to leave yourself bedridden for the next fortnight.  Know when to say no, and when to call it quits and go home.
  3. It is fine to advocate and be generous for a cause that helps you too.  If raising funds and awareness for endo is your passion, it is no less generous to give your time and money to that cause simply because you may benefit (although let’s be honest, anything we achieve in the endo sphere is really more likely to benefit the next generation than ours).
  4. Be generous to yourself!  If you are forgiving and complimenting other people and giving them time and energy, do a little bit of the same for yourself.

Overall, I think generosity is a little easier than gratefulness, but it still promotes a certain positivity of mind.  Sharing and caring feels good.  Feeling good helps you cope with pain and negativity better.  It’s a nice thing to do and a nice way to feel.

What are ways that you stay generous while suffering?  What is hardest for you?  Let me know in the comments.

All You Need to Know About Korean Skincare

In my post, “14 Little Things to Make Life Better,” I mentioned my self-care ritual being the 10-step Korean Skincare Routine.  For me it is an essential part of my self-care and helping me to love and appreciate a body that causes me all kinds of problems.  I’ve yet to see a post explain it better than this one, so I encourage you to read it.  But, for those who see that and think “tl;dr”, let me list the steps that I do below.

Morning

  1. Gently wash the face with water only (the intense night-time ritual should mean that there is no need to do more than that for cleansing of a morning);
  2. Apply toner;
  3. Apply an essence (I usually skip this step in the morning as I only have one essence and it lives in the other bathroom);
  4. Apply an ampoule;
  5. Apply a serum;
  6. Apply eye cream;
  7. Apply a daily moisturiser;
  8. Apply sunscreen.

Evening

  1. Use an oil cleanser (see here for how to do it properly – it’s a little more complex than just smearing oil on your face);
  2. Use a water-based cleanser;
  3. Exfoliate (do not do this nightly – two-three times a week for most skin types is plenty);
  4. Apply a clay mask (not in the original but I prefer clay masks to sheet masks and this is the best spot for them in the routine);
  5. Apply toner;
  6. Apply an essence;
  7. Apply an ampoule;
  8. Apply a serum;
  9. Apply a sheet mask (I don’t do this step as sheet masks aren’t super eco-friendly or cost-effective);
  10. Apply eye cream;
  11. Apply a nightly moisturiser.

Is it excessive?  Probably yes.  Are all the steps necessary?  Of course not.  I’ve survived years without doing most of them.  Does my face feel like angel-kissed silk since I’ve started doing this?  Definitely yes.  I’ve never had such smooth, hydrated skin.  No more dry, flaky bits or that weird network of micro-cracks I used to get on my nose.  Whilst my blemishes still appear (thanks, hormones) and I’ve still got dark circles, the love I am showing my skin makes me feel 100% more confident in it.  I can’t wait to see what more time will do.

It’s also giving me time to relax and unwind at night, and to wake up slowly in the morning.  The whole process is so luxurious and gentle (harsh scrubbing is not a thing in this ritual) that I feel great mentally doing it.  It sets my mind for bed, or for the new day, and it feels superb to begin and end the day doing something quiet that is just for me.

So, what products am I using?

At the moment, I’m using a weird mix of the super budget and the true Korean stuff (although all cruelty free and vegan).  Once I’ve given the Korean stuff a proper whirl, I’m intending to migrate all the steps to a brand I love, like Sukin or maybe even ELF (although they’ve been getting fancy and expensive with their skincare).  Both ELF and Sukin are cruelty-free.  Sukin is entirely vegan and ELF has just one or two non-vegan products.  Sukin is my preference as they are also very eco-conscious.

Oil cleansing

Right now I’m using coconut oil.  Yes, all the experts say don’t do it because it can clog your pores, but it is actually working really well for me and it is cheap and readily available, and I already had it in the pantry.  If I tried to use it as a moisturiser rather than wiping it off I think I’d get a cloggy face, though.  In future, I’m planning on investing in Sukin’s Super Greens Cleansing Oil, because I love the Super Greens range and it is a lot more convenient for travel than a giant jar of coconut oil.

Sukin Super Greens Cleansing Oil

Water-based cleanser

This is basically any cleanser that isn’t an oil cleanser.  Almost all cleansers are water-based.  I’ve got a reaallly old passionfruit Body Shop one I’m trying to use up, but my go-to is this Sukin one.  It isn’t particularly foamy, despite the name, but it does the job and smells nice.

Toner

Toner is important to rebalance the skin after being washed and to better prepare it to absorb your moisturiser.  I switch between this one by Skinstitut (also vegan), which has a lovely botanical smell, and this Sukin one, which is the same thing but less strong-smelling.  I only use two because then I have one in each bathroom (I tend to use the main bathroom in the morning and the ensuite in the evening) and I’m not organised enough to move my products between the two.  The Skinstitut one is gorgeous but it’s more than twice the price of the Sukin one, so Sukin will be my future staple.

Multi-Active Mist
Skinstitut Multi-Active Most Toner

Essence

Sadly, Sukin doesn’t have anything that could be classed as an “essence”, which is a slightly watery substance somewhere between a toner and a serum.  I’m using this one by Missha, a Korean brand, which purports to calm redness and iritation (something I don’t see much of with the double cleanse anyway).  This ELF one seems like a nice alternative for waking the skin up, as it has coffee in it and that just sounds energizing.  Surprisingly, though, the Missha one is cheaper.

MISSHA Near Skin Simple Therapy Essence Lotion
Missha Near Skin Simple Therapy Lotion.  The website I purchased it from, Soko Glam, makes it easy for people wanting to start this routine by dividing products into the different steps.

Ampoule

I’m trialling two ampoules at the moment, one for morning and one for night.  An ampoule is supposedly like a serum on speed, and concentrates all its energies on one particular skin-loving benefit.  I’m using this Vitamin-C-packed ampoule by Yuja in the morning, not because I need it’s weird whitening properties (any whiter and I will literally vanish) but because I would love the brighter complexion it promises.  We’ll see how that goes.

At night I’m getting into this rather intense Time-Stop ampoule, which allegedly brightens, calms, strengthens and prevents wrinkles.  I’m not too worried about the wrinkles, but stronger, brighter, less irritated skin does sound attractive.  That being said, if I can have a decolletage like my mother’s, who is nearing sixty and doesn’t appear to have a trace of a wrinkle on her neck or chest, I’ll be pretty chuffed.  The lady knows how to moisturise.

Time Stop Collagen Ampoule
Time Stop Colleagen Ampoule.  It has a bizarre, slimy feel and smells faintly of mushrooms, but feels lovely on the skin despite that.

An alternative to an ampoule might be one of Sukin’s skin oils.  I currently use the rosehip one, but I’m keen to try some of the others.  Of course, you can always use both!  I’d throw on the oil after the serum or even after the moisturiser.

Serum

This is another area where I’m alternating.  I started the Skinstitut Retinol serum a few weeks ago, but it is only supposed to be used every second night.  It allegedly will help reduce the blind pimples on my chin and jawline.  I’m willing to try anything to stop those painful little blighters.  On the other nights and in the morning I use Neogen’s Pore Refine Serum to try and shrink the large pores on my cheeks and hopefully give those blind pimples the old one-two, as Vernon Dursley might say.  Once my skin situation is a little more level I’d like to investigate Sukin’s Super Greens Serum, or maybe even their Intensive Firming Serum when I get a bit older.  I’ve used ELF’s Hydrating Serum before and quite enjoyed it, and I’d be interested to see what their Beauty Shield Serum is like.

This stuff felt so hydrated I nearly forgot to put moisturiser on afterwards.

Eye Cream

I currently use Sukin’s Antioxidant Eye Cream, although I still don’t really understand what antioxidants are or why they need to be in your eye cream.  A pricier alternative is ELF’s Illuminating Eye Cream, but I won’t try that unless it goes on sale.

Moisturiser

I’m currently using Sukin (surprise surprise) day and night.  I’m thinking of switching out my day cream for one of their more hydrating ranges, but that’s a maybe.  I’m pretty happy with the ordinary one.

I’ve tried ELF’s Nourishing Night Cream before and liked it for its powers of hydration, despite the rather weird, silky texture.  They also now offer an Illuminating Moisturiser and a Daily Hydration one.  I’ve not tried either.  They also have this very funky-looking cream that has a built-in massaging cap.

Masks

As indicated above, I can’t make any recommendations as to sheet masks as I’m not a huge fan.  In the past I’ve used Sukin’s Super Greens mask and quite liked it, but I am in love with their Purifying mask at the moment.  I’ve never met such a clever creature when it comes to drawing out reluctant pimples that just need to develop and move on.  Love it.  The Charcoal one is nice too, if a little less intense.

I’m currently trialling this but suspect I’ll go back to the purifying mask for the anti-acne superpowers.

I confess, I am curious to try ELF’s bubble mask and their magnetic mask, because both sound like fun concepts, although I will wait for a sale.  They also have a gel mask, which doesn’t sound quite as exciting.

Overnight masks are also a thing in Korean skincare for those seeking hydration above and beyond the norm.  I don’t think I need one, but if I did I’d probably turn to this ELF one.

Exfoliators

I’ve got a couple of different exfoliation methods at the moment.  I’ve tried a sample of the Skinstitut glycolic scrub and was very impressed with how smooth my face felt afterwards.  I would buy again if I was buying a bundle (makes their otherwise pricey products much more affordable).

My go-to is the Sukin Super Greens exfoliator.  No micro-beads and no harsh little kernels causing micro-tears, as far as I know.  It’s very gentle but gets the job done.

One a week I also use my Baiden mitten gently on my face.  The website for the mitten looks like a total gimmick and I assumed I was waving goodbye to my money, but it came through and I’ve been in love ever since.  It’s very eco-friendly (I’ve had mine for years now) and boy, does it do a good job of peeling off that dead skin.  I don’t think the website is accurate in saying it will change your life, but it does exfoliate well.

Image result for baiden mitten
An example of the super-gross but incredibly satisfying exfoliation the Baiden mittem offers.

ELF have two, a peeling one and a bog-standard exfoliating scrub.  I’ve not tried either.

Suncreen

For vegan sunscreens I can’t go past Sun Bum or Sun Bear. Sun Bum smells a bit like a banana, and Sun Bear supports charities that rescue sun bears (although it is worth noting that they are not reef-safe as claimed).

So there we have it: my lengthy skincare/self-care ritual.  I won’t always be well enough to commit to every step and I do keep micellar water and cleansing wipes handy just in case I can’t stand up, but every day I can this little routine makes me happier, and I believe is doing wonders for my skin.

What are your go-to skin products?  Would you be interested to see how this routine is treating me in the future, or to read reviews of different products I use?

Reframing Part III: Body Image

I recently did a 3-part series on some of the common side-effects of endo, including UTIs, thrush and constipation.  Now I want to do some on the emotional side-effects, beginning with guilt, and talk about reframing the way we think about things to combat these negative emotions.  Please bear in mind I am not a psychologist or mental-health expert – these are just some strategies that I have employed to deal with my own feelings.

Today I want to talk about body image, which is something I struggle with all the time.

My pre-endo body was hot.  I never would have phrased it so blatantly at the time but now she’s practically a different woman so I have no problem singing her praises.  I was long and lean but still curvy – think a less muscular Xena.  Just before my 25th birthday I was in really peak condition, working out almost daily, going for 5km runs and swinging kettlebells round my head.

Now my thighs are bigger, my tummy is chubbier, even when it isn’t distended, and I don’t fit into my fantastic red bootcut Cue trousers.  I’m learning to deal with my heartbreak about the trousers but the grieving process is long.  I’ve already discussed how I don’t like this body because it doesn’t feel like mine.  For a while, though, I actually despised the fatness (it’s not very fat, it just felt that way) because this society really hammers into us that you can’t be pretty and fat.  Even though we’ve made some strides towards body positivity by showcasing more fat models, they often don’t show “real” fat.  They are the idealised fat, where everything is still a super smooth, cellulite-free curve, just on a larger, rounder scale.  Real fat tends to be jiggly and has lumps rather than being a perfect curve.  It’s not taut and smooth, and mine definitely isn’t sun-bronzed.  If I go out in the sun and expose anything other than my face and hands people tend to be blinded by the whiteness.

So how did I learn to move past that and learn to accept my body even though it isn’t the one I want?

1) I was exhausted by hating it

It is a very tiring thing to wake up and look at your body and think, “I hate you,” every day.  I already hate that it causes me so much pain and seems to be failing in its job to carry me from point A to B and sustain itself properly.  Hating the way it looks is extra energy that I really don’t have.

2) I forced myself to confront it

These days I have to wear clothes that accommodate a painful, tender pelvis, so I stopped wearing a lot of the awesome trousers I used to have that would highlight my neat little waist and long legs.  I still wear clothes that show off the bits I like, but a side-effect was that I was hiding the bits I didn’t like, which also meant I could hide from them.  Unfortunately, pretending they weren’t there didn’t make them go away, so I forced myself not to rush into getting changed.  I forced myself to look at my body without those comforting layers.  And you know what?  When I looked at it, really looked at it, it wasn’t actually as bad as I thought.  Self-hatred has a tendency to magnify your flaws and downplay your assets, but when I made myself stare at myself and get reaquainted with parts I was avoiding, I could go, “Ok, so the thighs aren’t what they were, but I still have nice calves.  My hips don’t fit into some of my clothes anymore but they don’t actually look any bigger.  I still go in at the waist.  My face is still pretty.”

It’s probably not that healthy because I was still looking for things in my body that conformed with the idealised standard of beauty that gets plastered over magazine covers.  I’m told a healthier mindset might be to ditch all that and say, “my hands are dexterous, my legs let me stand, etc.” That kind of body positvity focused on functionality, though, doesn’t really work for people whose bodies aren’t functional but still don’t want to hate themselves.  Am I supposed to look at my stomach and go, “Yeah, nothing inside this bad boy actually ever functions how it should, but it sure is great!” It’s a common tactic for encouraging self-love but it is unintentionally ableist.

I don’t really have a solution to how we navigate that line, given that bodies are really only “assessable”, for lack of a better word, based on looks and function.  If anyone has a healthier approach to that, please let me know.  I went with looks because I was hating my looks, so finding things about my looks that I did like was a good antidote for me.

3) I treated it well

The best thing I have every done to learn to love my body is treating as if it deserves love.  If you treat something with care and respect, it is very hard to hate it; if you treat it like it doesn’t matter, it is very hard to love it.

So, I exercise when I can, not to get all slenderised, but to feel my muscles rebuild and protect myself.  I eat well (mostly) because I like to think my body goes, “Ooh, nourishment.” I have a super elaborate skin-care ritual because if I pretend I deserve it (or my face does), I begin to believe that is true.  So treat yo’self.  Treat your body well.  It may not give you anything in return when it is still riddled with disease, but it will help you shift your mindset into liking it again.

4) I gave myself a break

If I see my friends have a bit of a tummy, I don’t fixate on it and go, “ew.” If I see acne on someone’s face, I don’t recoil in disgust.  So why do I put myself through that?  Why can’t I love myself the way I love my friends?  Also, if I feel that way about their bodies, chances are they feel that way about mine, and don’t notice my gradual expansion (except when I can’t shut up about it).  I think they are beautiful, inside and out.  I am fairly certain they believe that about me (they certainly say they do).  So I can learn to believe it about myself.

5) I tried to change my thinking

Instead of seeing the weight gain as a symbol of a battle lost, I am trying to see it as a mark of a battle fought.  It remind me that I have endo, yes, but it also reminds me that I am taking steps to fight it as much as I can.  Today I had a third piece of plastic injected into me (into that wobbly little tum, of all places) to induce menopause at just 27 years of age.  I’m going to great lengths to give my body back its health.

I also tried to see my body as an ally instead of the enemy.  It hasn’t actually done anything wrong.  It has been invaded by endometriosis and taken over.  Endo is the enemy.  My body is fighting back against it, and it can’t win every battle, but it is on my side and you can’t hate people who are on your side.  Those are the rules.

 

One thing I haven’t talked about in this article is trying to get away from the notion that prettiness or looking a certain way determines your self-worth.  I know it doesn’t.  For me, the battle hasn’t been about self-worth.  It’s been about self-love.  I haven’t struggled to like my body because I think it devalues me as a person; I have struggled to like it because it wasn’t what I wanted.  I don’t equate my value with how I look (mostly.  I’m not totally over that.  Is anyone?), but I do equate my happiness with it.  My fight has not been to change my priorities, but the way I view my body.

Have you experienced a change in the way you feel about your body since having endometriosis?  How have you dealt with that?  Is it still a struggle for you?  Please let me know in the comments.