fake it until you make it

I know for this ChronicBabe blog carnival we’re supposed to write about our tips and techniques for taking care of ourselves. I could write about hot water bottles or bags of frozen peas, drugs that help or meditation techniques that make me feel better. But I’m not going to do that.

For me, the most important part of taking care of myself goes beyond flares and remission, beyond migraines and PSA. For me, the most important thing is simply this: What can I do to make myself feel more like the me of old, the healthy me, the me that didn’t worry about self-care tips and tools?

And that’s a mite trickier. (At least, for me it is.)

I don’t know about anyone else, and I’m certainly not trying to be a mouthpiece for all patients — or even all of us out there with PSA — but I struggle to find a balance between the me-that-was and the woman that’s here now. I’m not even sure if striving to stay true to that girl is healthy or even feasible, but at this point in my life, it’s something I need to at least try to do.

So. How do I do it?

The makeup I have on me at work.

First things first. I am all about makeup tricks that make me look like I’ve got a healthy glow, instead of a pale, bags-under-eyes whatever the opposite of glow is. Un-glow, maybe. For that, my friends, I need makeup and skin products. Not a ton, mind you, but some are certainly needed to mask lack of sleep or a face taunt with pain. But before you can put makeup on, you must start with a clean face. In the morning, that means two Aveeno products: the Positively Radiant morning scrub and the Positively Radiant moisturizer with SPF 30 in it. I don’t compromise on the SPF. It helps my face look brighter because it’s got some kind of light-reflecting pearls in it. I don’t know really how it works, but it does, so I don’t ask questions. On days when I’ve got puffy bags under my eyes, I’m a fan of the Aveeno Positively Radiant. But, when my dark circles are so bad that they’ve got to be concealed, I use MAC’s Fast Response Eye Cream, which is a great base for under-eye makeup, but not so much for de-puffing the eye area. To conceal, I’m a big fan of the Physician’s Formula concealers, for under the eye and for the odd pimple I get.

So. Not looking tired anymore? Check.

Now, for the rest, I love to use the makeup I used before I got sick. I’m a fan of MAC, L’Oreal HIP and some Revlon eye makeup. You’ve got to use what works for you. But, to look really awake, I curl my lashes and apply one coat of mascara. I already have long lashes, so I use a volumizing formula, like L’Oreal’s Volume Naturale, or Cover Girl’s Eye Lights in Ruby Negro (since I have green eyes).

I don’t use foundation because my skin’s pretty good. When I did, I liked Neutrogena’s tinted moisturizer; it looks like your skin, but better. I’m also a huge fan of Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin Blends for blush or NARS blush in Orgasm, which looks good on pretty much everyone. For lips, I go back and forth between a few different lipsticks. I use Jemma Kid’s nude lipstick, but it’s a bit drying, so I put on some Rosebud Salve underneath. I have a MAC cream lipstick in a red/magenta colour to use when I want some drama. I also love Maybelline’s Color Sensational Lipcolor (I have three!). It’s really hydrating, so I don’t need to worry about lip balm underneath.

Now, for hair. On bad days, days when I’m not up to blow drying or running a flat iron through my hair, I use John Frieda’s curl collection and air dry my hair. Once it’s dry, I just put a bit of anti-frizz cream on it and I’m good to go. And I don’t know about the rest of you PSA ladies, but my skin is super dry. I love Nivea’s body lotions; they are amazing and keep my skin super soft.

And that’s it. It just takes 20 or so products to keep me looking like I did before I got sick. But, when I look better, I feel better, so that’s really important to me. What tips and tricks do you all use to keep the world from knowing just how bad you’re feeling?

happy list

Because it’s Tuesday — the worst day of the week — I thought I would pull a rockstar diaries and post a happy list. Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive, but sometimes it helps to think of things that make me happy. Especially on a Tuesday.

  1. doing absolutely anything with my husband.
  2. getting that perfect shot.
  3. re-reading a favourite book — again.
  4. Italian soda from the local coffee shop.
  5. that first day of spring after winter, when it’s finally warm enough to shed that heavy coat.
  6. anything green.
  7. snugging with my furbabies, Remy and Otis.
  8. butterflies.
  9. listening to thunderstorms as we fall asleep.
  10. hot apple cider on a cold day

What’s your happy list?

alive and kickin’

The newest ChronicBabe Blog Carnival on parenting is up and running!

I’m really enjoying the posts so far. Laurie Edwards of A Chronic Dose, of course, wrote a really lovely, “As Long As It’s Healthy.” But, then again, I always love her stuff (including her book!); she was actually the one who inspired me to start blogging about my health issues.

Annie’s post on It’s Time To Get Over How Fragile You Are is also really awesome. She talks about trying to figure out whether she wants a child and how it’s complicated by having a chronic illness.

There are a bunch of other great ones, so head on over and enjoy!

parenting 101

The decision when or if to become a parent is a highly personal one. Still, strangers seem to be OK with asking about it without pausing to think that maybe that’s not a question they should be asking of someone they’ve never met before.

As of yet, I do not have kids. I don’t know if I ever will. I go back and forth on this one. My PSA certainly has a huge impact on this, changing the language I use when I talk about the possibility of having children and the potential problems I see with raising them with the challenges I deal with day to day.

When I have a good day — I’ve slept well, my energy is up, my bones and muscles don’t ache and protest whether I move or keep still — I begin to think that yes, of course, I could have children. It would be difficult, sure, but my husband and I could certainly handle children. We’ve been through our fair share of challenges and come out the other side stronger for them. When I’m feeling well, I see all the wonderful possibilities children bring into people’s lives. When I’m feeling well, the difficulties children bring along with them don’t seem so hard to manage.

Sure, I know that raising kids isn’t easy, but on good days, I see kids and smile.

But on bad days, everything changes.

Take yesterday. Yesterday, it was hot — more than 90 degrees outside — and so, so humid. Yesterday, I had the worst bad day I’ve had in a long time, a combination of PSA flare and a migraine that just would not let go. I was quite literally brought to tears by the amount of pain I was in. On a day like that, how in the world would I handle taking care of a child? On a day when my hands were so swollen and achy picking up a glass of water was almost unbearable, how would I hold a toddler? On a day when my mind was foggy and my head exploding, how would I sooth an infant’s cries? On a day where sitting was painful, how would I keep up with an energetic 4-year-old?

On bad days, the realities of my condition hit me full force. Taking care of a cat and a dog can be hard enough when I’m not well; taking care of a child might be more than I am up for. Still, I know it can be done. People with PSA, migraines and all kinds of chronic conditions have raised children before. I’m sure I — we, my husband and I — would figure something out, some kind of way to make it work, if we decide having children is something we really want to do.

And though the idea of having kids fills me with all kinds of questions, the logistics of how it would work — would I have to stop working, would I be thrown into a flare after giving birth, would adoption be a better route for us — I know if we decide to have children, it’s something we will have to figure out. For now, I can enjoy other people’s children and take pleasure in the fact that I can simply give them back if I am no longer able to handle them.

and now, for something slightly different

Sometimes, even if you really, really, really, REALLY want something, it still doesn’t happen. One of my good friends from university is getting married in June. I would love to go, as I haven’t seen so many of these friends since my wedding two years ago or since I left that university in 2004. That’s a long time to go without seeing some great friends. Still, we are not able to go, despite how much I would love it.

So, what’s a girl to do?

Instead, I think I’m going to treat my town — a veritable ghost town now that all the college students have gone home for the summer — like a vacation. I’m going to see it through a tourist’s eyes, something I have never done before despite wanting to. This, though, is a more manageable dream. I can visit all the coffee shops and lunch spots I’ve been dying to hit, wander through museums I’ve only ever walked by, hear live music in all the great venues my town has to offer.

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but somehow I never got around to it. This is the perfect chance, though, to do it. Not only does it serve as a substitute to not one but two friends’ weddings I would love to attend, but it also provides my husband and I the chance to make new memories here, to make this town our own.

Suddenly, I can’t wait to spend the summer here. Imagine that.

new normal

Forgive  me if I’m not super eloquent today, but some kind of Something Nasty is kicking my butt, alternately plugging up my nose and making it run like Niagara Falls. I feel like someone’s replaced my brain with cottage cheese or maybe a nice down pillow.

But I thought this column in the New York Times was too good to ignore. Loren writes about how, even though she is currently in remission, her UC never really goes away. It dogs her, like a shadow, sometimes barely visible but always there.

While in remission, it’s easy to convince yourself that illness was just a bad dream, a nightmare, and that this healthy, robust you is the real you. It’s easy to forget (but not really forget, just ignore) all the things that you have to deal with: side effects to drugs, friends and family not really getting it, the knowledge that you live with an incurable disease.

It’s hard. I know it’s something I struggle with every day, even though I’m not in remission and wake up every day hit full force by the effects of PSA. Sometimes a chronic illness hits you in places where you didn’t even know you were vulnerable, like Loren at her company’s blood drive (don’t even get me started on company blood drives and those stickers).

How do you cushion the blow? I don’t know. But if any of you figure it out, please feel free to let me know.

Laughter — really the best meds?

Is laughter really the best medicine?

Now, I know that’s not really this week’s Patients for a Moment question (that was about a funny moment in my illness).

But I think the idea that laughter can help a person get through an illness is really powerful. I don’t know that I’m at a point where I can laugh at my PSA yet — hell, I can barely talk about it without tearing up. But laughing, even just for a little while — maybe while watching “Scrubs” or “The Office” or having some crazy conversation with my husband or friends — it makes everything seem somehow less dire, more manageable.

It makes me feel like maybe I could laugh at this one day.

Oh sure, there have been some funny moments, I guess. Like when I first started using injectable biologics and would bargain with myself or trick myself into thinking that I was not about to stick a needle in me. “This time it won’t hurt, Self,” I would say. “Wuss.” (I’m a big liar.)

Mostly, I am just glad I still can laugh, even if not at myself just yet. I can laugh when I’m singing silly songs in the car. I can laugh with my husband, when we make ridiculous faces at each other. I can laugh at the poem a good friend wrote me. (I’m not being mean; it’s meant to be funny!) I can laugh at TV shows, movies and musicals. I can laugh at political candidates responses to our questions on Election Day (“I’m making a sandwich” still wins, hands-down, as a response to, “How did you spend your Election Night?”).

So, laughter is the best medicine? Yeah, I think I’ll have a double dose.

every thorn has its rose

So, living with pain. I have written about this before, and I’m not so sure my views have changed since then.

Pain — except for those few indescribably wonderful times when I’m in remission — is with me constantly. Of course it has turned me into a different person, someone I wouldn’t have been without it always by my side; even when I’m not in pain, even when I’m in remission, Pain still dogs me, following a few steps behind just waiting until whatever meds I’m on wear off a bit or stop working to step back in.

It would depress me, if I let it (though on some days or weeks, of course, it does depress me; of course it does).

As mentioned in that New York Times article, pain can very easily turn people into bitter, angry, closed-off people, completely focused on the thing that takes can and turns it into can’t. And I would be lying if I said I was immune. I am not perfect (as my husband can certainly attest to!), but I try not to let Pain take hold of me and turn me into something I am not proud of being.

The blessing and curse of  having an invisible illness is just that — it’s invisible. All people see is what I allow them to see. If I’m having a Bad Day, I don’t look any different. I just act differently. People don’t see my illness; they just see how I respond to it on any given day, at any given moment. That can be good and bad, but it’s certainly bad when Pain has put me in a rotten mood, and I’m just too tired or too miserable to control my behaviour.

Case in point: One of my co-workers, an older women, has RA. I didn’t know her before she developed RA, so perhaps she was always a petty, passive aggressive control freak who will make things more difficult for her co-workers if she’s not consulted before decisions are made. But I don’t think so; she has days when she is pleasant and lovely to be around, days when she goes out of her way to help. I think she has become twisted by pain. Our office is a small one, so the majority of us know that she’s ill. Some don’t, though, and just think she’s being a witch. Sometimes I feel that way too, but I try to be compassionate, try to help her along — when she lets me.

I think that may be an important lesson. Pain can turn us into wicked, twisted people who almost delight in our misery and the misery of others. I think it’s important to try not to allow pain to warp us in that way. I know it’s left its mark on me already, but I try not to allow it to take me that far. I try to take the good lessons pain can teach me — compassion, not judging others, kindness to all — and leave the jerk things it tries to get me to do behind. I’m not always successful, but I think it’s important that I try.