Self-Care In The Time Of Coronavirus

self-care in the time of coronavirus

With social distancing serving as the new catchphrase and entire countries under quarantine, I think I speak for us all when I say, “I’ve had my three month free trial of 2020, and I’d like to return it now.”

This sucks. This completely sucks, and what sucks even more than people dying in droves is the number of people who blatantly disregard orders to stay at home. I get it. You’re bored. You want to go see a movie or go to Sephora. So do I. But you know what I want more than that? For my mom, who is battling cancer, to stay alive. I want people like me, who have shitty immune systems, to stay alive. My mom has lung cancer. I have scarred lungs from Swine Flu. If you need to put a human face to the tragedy to make it real for you, I’m begging you: please don’t kill my mom. Please don’t kill me.

Most of us are stuck between “this is the perfect time for me to get my shit together” and “this is a time of crisis, so I don’t have to do shit.” As kids today say, big mood. Here’s the thing: you don’t have to create a lasting work of art while in isolation because that’s what Shakespeare did during the plague. What you have to do — for your family as well as yourself — is to take care of yourself.

Mental health matters, perhaps now more than ever. Associate Professor Solveig Merete Klæbo Reitan of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology says there’s a direct link between mental health and immune health: “We know that people with mental disorders are also more susceptible to various inflammations in the body and to immune system disorders. This indicates that an interaction exists.”

“But I don’t have a mental disorder!” Stress may not be a psychiatric illness, but it is a form of disordered thinking. I don’t mean basic stress like, “Oh, shit, I’m stuck in traffic. I’ll be late to my meeting.” That happens to everyone. It’s unsettling, but true stress can be defined as the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable. And, right now, that’s happening to a lot of us, too. This is a frightening thing the likes of which many of us have never faced before. It’s overwhelming, and some of us are having trouble coping. What we need right now are ways to help us cope, and I’ve put together a list of my favorites self-care tips.

self-care during covid-19

1.) Break the cycle: Doing your research is great. Taking precautions is smart. But if you find yourself obsessively refreshing the COVID-19 map, it’s time to ask yourself, “Have I been here today? Is there any reason to revisit this page right now? Is it worth the anxiety it will cause me?” Stopping the thoughts that lead to panic in their tracks is often easier said than done, but give it a try. When you find yourself going down that road, stop, thank your anxiety for trying to protect you, and think of something else.

2.) Be your own best friend: Yes, really. Would you tell your best friend her skin looks like shit? Or point out that she’s too fat to wear those jeans? Of course not! So why are you looking in the mirror and saying it to yourself? Your internal monologue is so important. Just like being insulted by others impacts our self-esteem, insulting ourselves does the same thing. Stop it. Just stop. You are enough just the way you are. If you’re worried about your skin, FaceTime a dermatologist. If your health is suffering because of your weight, then research meal plans you can stick to. Never do anything because society tells you it’s expected of you. Do it for yourself, and support yourself along the way.

3.) Marie Kondo the shit out of your house: A study conducted by Ghent University states there is a connection between materialism and depression, and Rik Pieters of Tilburg University found a direct link between materialism and increasing loneliness over time. When you’re bored and want to feel productive, get in your closet and clear out things you don’t wear anymore. Hanging onto those skinny jeans you’ve had since college in the hope of fitting into them again isn’t helping. If you find yourself back in the same size you wore during college, buy a new pair of jeans to celebrate, and get rid of an old pair to make room. You don’t need a bunch of shit to prove how successful you are. Your happiness is the true measure of success, not the amount of clutter in your home.

4.) Stop kicking your own ass: I’m sure it’s not just me — the first week of this pandemic was like stepping into a time machine. I found myself reviewing every mistake I’ve ever made under a microscope. “Why didn’t I think I was smart enough to go to med school? I could be saving lives right now!” and “I hope my ex knows how incredibly sorry I am; I’d take it back it I could,” and “I hope my idiot ex is having fun in jail; that’s what you get for dealing drugs, scumbag! Why did I even like you?” Stop. Cut it out. Unless the Doctor shows up in the TARDIS and announces that lawlessness briefly applies to time-space, and you can go back in time and change one thing in your past, or you manage to nick the Time Stone from Thanos, what’s done is done. You can’t change it, so stop dwelling on it.

self-care during coronapocalypse

5.) Invest in yourself: Take an online class. Teach yourself to paint — Bob Ross will teach you from the great beyond thanks to his eternal YouTube channel. Learn to play piano. Start baking! (I have several delicious vegan recipes up on my Instagram, and I promise you’ll love them all.) Now is the perfect time to learn something new. Not only will it engage your brain so you have less time for those it’s-the-zombie-apocalypse-for-real thoughts that have been plaguing us all, but you’ll walk away feeling more confident in yourself.

6.) Stop shit-talking yourself: Yeah, okay, I’ll admit it. Looking in the mirror and saying, “I’m awesome!” does feel incredibly silly. But here’s the thing: it works. A 2014 study in the Annual Review of Psychology found that daily affirmations improve your mental health and boost your self-esteem. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme or cheesy. Start small. Just look in the mirror, paraphrase “Desiderata,” and say, “I am a child of the universe, and I have a right to be here.” Or, if you’re the go-big-or-go-home type, sing “Born This Way” at the top of your lungs into your hairbrush. I won’t judge. (And, let’s be real, it totally beats singing “Bye, Corona” to the tune of “My Sharona” or “COVID-19” to the tune of “Come On, Eileen.”)

7.) Laugh your ass off: If you’ve never watched The Golden Girls, here’s your chance. You will laugh. A lot. “Laughter is the best medicine” is a cliché for a reason, and don’t just take my word for it. According to the Journal of Neuroscience, it releases endorphins, a natural mood-booster.

8.) Treat yourself to an at-home spa day: If you’re working from home and don’t need to show your face during a Zoom meeting, slather yourself in your favorite mud mask and coat your hair in coconut oil. Or maybe your boss is super cool and wears a mud mask, too. Have a Shrek party where you’re all painted up green!

self-care during quarantine

9.) Become a beauty guru: All you need is creativity, YouTube tutorials, and makeup. Always wanted to perfect your winged liner? Practice makes perfect, and this is the time to practice. Pull out your favorite red lipstick and slap it on to grab your mail. Is it a major thing? No, not really. It’s not even beneficial to your skin like a mask is, but if playing around with your makeup makes you feel better, then go for it!

10.) Stay active: You don’t need an in-home gym to do this. Do some crunches. Use soup cans as weights. Dance in your living room. Like laughter, exercise releases endorphins, so you’ll feel better in the long run. I’m not promoting it as a cure-all. Exercising won’t cure your depression or fix your love life, but it’s all about achievable goals. You won’t develop a six-pack in a month, but you can start developing the habit of working out that may one day lead to one.

How do you practice self-care? Sound off in the comments. Let’s give each other ideas! Stay safe, stay home, and stop hoarding toilet paper.

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Favorites and Fails: September 2019

september favorites autumn

Wow, it’s been an eternity since I’ve done one of these. I considered doing a ‘best of 2019 so far’ round up, but I don’t want to write a Bible-length post, and I don’t think anybody wants to read one.

If you read my last post, you’ll know we’ve been through the ringer here lately, but I don’t want to get into that right now. Let’s talk about the good stuff! I’ve even got some nifty discount codes to share with y’all. Without further adieu, here’s my favorites (and a couple of fails) for the month of September.

1.) Mylk Guys: A couple weeks ago, a cool online vegan grocery called Mylk Guys reached out and kindly gifted me a little shopping haul, and I am obsessed. If you’re like me and live in an area that doesn’t carry loads of vegan products, you can get sick of eating the same old things. That’s… not gonna be a problem for me anymore. The problem will be controlling myself when the urge to buy every vegan cheese they’re selling takes hold of me at three in the morning. Late night grocery shopping spree cravings are real, you guys. I need an intervention. If you shop through this link, you can see some of my favorites and get $10 off your first order.

september favorites prodigal son

2.) Prodigal Son: I’m a huge murder fan, which sounds a bit alarming, but you know what I mean. I studied criminology at university, and I love a good crime drama. Key word being good. This one? Is shockingly good. The charismatic Tom Payne (The Walking Dead) stars as Malcolm Bright, a disgraced FBI profiler working with the police to solve crimes with the help of his father, Dr. Martin Whitly, brilliantly portrayed by Oscar-nominee Michael Sheen (The Queen, Frost/Nixon). The twist? Whitly is a convicted serial killer known as The Surgeon. Part House, part Hannibal, and part what-the-Hell-is-this? original, Prodigal Son is a wild ride. You can watch it on Fox on Monday or on Hulu.

3.) ThreadUP: As I mentioned in my update, I’ve seriously messed up my leg, so I can’t wear any of my pants. Because shaving is out of the question, and I seriously cannot handle brushing against my own hairy legs, I am all about the athleisure at the moment. I’ve been shopping more sustainably lately, so I’ve turned to ThreadUP for my current “help, I can’t wear my pants” needs. I snapped up several pairs of Adidas track pants, and my mom bought me some Nike joggers. Are they the height of fashion? No way, but considering I’m hobbling around on a cane at the moment, I really don’t care. (Not sponsored, but I should be. C’mon, ThreadUP!)

4.) Altra Olympus 2.5: Before the leg injury, I screwed up the tendons in my foot and was told I needed to wear orthotic shoes while I healed. Visions of Sophia Petrillo’s old lady shoes flashed before my eyes. Now, I love the Golden Girls, and I joke about how I want to be Sophia when I’m old, but I’m not ready for it yet. Luckily, my uncle did the same thing to his foot months ago, had a lot of success with Altra trainers, and kindly bought me a pair. I. Love. These. Shoes. I love them. They’re so comfortable and supportive, plus the thick sole makes me taller. Every little bit helps.

september favorites sourpuss blanket

5.) Sourpuss bat blanket + pouches: As you can see, Teeny loves her new bat blanket and says thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m so sorry I included it because it’s not on the website now, but I just love it so much, and so do the babies. Also adorable and much-loved are these pouches featuring my all-time favorites, Bowie and Freddie. These are still available, so grab them while you can! I feel like it would be completely disrespectful not to use the Bowie pouch as a makeup bag, but Freddie loved his glam, too. Decisions, decisions.

september favorites yeouth vitamin c&e serum

6.) Yeouth Skincare Vitamin C&E Serum with Hyaluronic Acid: This stuff… Oh, man. This stuff is amazing. C&E protect your skin from free radicals, which cause aging, and hyaluronic acid helps your skin to retain moisture, so any moisturizer you apply over it sinks in properly. Plus you can use my discount code SOCIAL20 to get your own for a nifty twenty percent off. What’s not to love?

7.) Honey by Raveena: As one of the best YouTube comments ever says, “This is what clear skin sounds like.” Yes! Honestly, I cannot get enough of this woman’s voice, and she’s ridiculously beautiful to boot. Her voice reminds me of Norah Jones blended with Lana Del Rey, and I’m so obsessed with her at the moment. Maybe it’s me being a bit odd, but certain songs and albums have seasonal vibes to me, and Honey just feels autumnal. Just… go. Watch the video. Listen to her music. You will thank me.

8.) My new Macbook Pro: My (less than a year old!) HP started doing this weird thing where the screen flashed blue, everything went back to normal, and then the laptop would freeze up until I popped the battery out and did a hard reboot. At first it happened once a month, and then it was happening two or three times a night. I need my computer for work, so that wasn’t going to fly. I bit the bullet and shelled out for a new MacBook, and now I remember why I’ve always been a die-hard Apple girl. I’m sorry, Apple. I’ll never cheat on you again.

9.) Pumpkin Spice Lattes: They’re back! I get mine with coconut milk and no whipped cream, and they are delicious. Yeah, I know. I sound like a Basic Fall Girl, and I am completely okay with that.

10.) The Keepers: Oh, God. Where do I even begin when it comes to discussing this series? I was reared Catholic, and while I’m no longer a member of the church, my cousin was a priest. I have another cousin who’s a nun. Hearing the testimony of how so many children were brutalized by two Baltimore priests — and the resulting death of Sister Cathy Cesnik, who tried to stop it — sickens me in ways I can’t fully articulate. It’s absolutely gut-wrenching and so well done, but it may be triggering to survivors of sexual abuse. Please stay safe if you decide to watch it. It can be found on Netflix.

11.) 17 Carnations by Andrew Morton: Detailing the affair between Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII as well as their connection to Nazi Germany, which revolved around a rather bizarre scheme to make him a puppet king to the Third Reich. Despite its meticulously researched density, 17 Carnations is a fast, easy read that’s by turns shocking and — perhaps surprisingly given its subject matter — amusing.

And now… for the fails. Oh, the fails.

crutch broken leg avulsed patellar tendon

1.) My stupid leg: If you have never had an avulsed patellar tendon, I don’t recommend it. Basically, the tendon has partially peeled away from where it connects to the bone. On top of the fracture, it makes walking borderline unbearable. There are times when I literally reach the point of almost wetting myself because the alternative means standing up and hobbling my way to the bathroom. I have a high pain tolerance, but holy shit. This sucks, you guys.

2.) The weather: It’s officially autumn. October is just a day away (so prepare for some spooky content), and it’s like a bloody sauna outside. It’s also going to be close to 100 every single day this week. Why? Why?! Can we just have some freakin’ sweater weather already?!

There you have it, my favorites and fails for September. What have you been loving lately?

I’m Not Dead!

brokenglassupdateSorry for the disappearance! Things got a little crazy around here, which I’ll detail more in another post. But here’s a quick recap of what’s been going on:

  • My aunt coming to visit.
  • Mom’s chemotherapy and radiation.
  • Loads of different projects (you can check them on my Instagram, which you should go follow if you don’t already!)
  • One of my cats dying.
  • My brother and his wife coming to visit.
  • One of my dogs dying.
  • Breaking my leg and avulsing the patellar tendon. Yup, on the knee I screwed up in the wreck. Lucky me, huh?

So that’s what’s up with me. How are all of you guys doing? I’ll be back soon (as in tomorrow or Monday) with my September favorites and the tea on my mom’s cancer treatment.

The Cancer Battle, Part One: The Delayed Diagnosis

My mother was officially diagnosed with cancer on May 9, 2019, but our journey — I say our not to diminish the fact that my mother is the one who is ill, but because I will be with her throughout, and because you, my dear readers, are along for the ride — actually began in early November of 2018.

It’s almost funny how the smallest things can change the course of a life and the lives of those closes to the afflicted. And, by “almost funny,” I mean “not very fucking funny at all.” It started with a cold.

After several days of a sore throat, a cough, low-grade fever, and slight shortness of breath, my mom went to the doctor and was diagnosed with the common cold.

“Take some zinc lozenges, get plenty of rest, and drink plenty of water,” her doctor said.

Only she couldn’t seem to bounce back. She sucked on zinc lozenges — sugar-free! — took Tylenol for her fever, drank several bottles of water more than her normal intake, and napped when she was tired, but her health deteriorated. The doctor said her cold had morphed into bronchitis.

“This happens with people who have asthma,” he said, tone filled with confident sincerity.

But the bronchitis lingered. Her shortness of breath worsened, and so she was sent for a chest CT to confirm (or rule out) pneumonia. They saw a strange spot on the CT, but because the CT confirmed that she did have pneumonia, they couldn’t be sure what it was. They would get another CT in a few months to make sure the pneumonia had resolved, they said. The spot would probably be gone then, they said.

It was probably nothing to worry about.

Despite getting flu shots, we both got the flu, so Thanksgiving was spent huddled in blankets surrounded by balled up, snotty tissues. And, once again, my mother was diagnosed with bronchitis.

“You do this a lot,” said her doctor. “We’ll get it under control.”

Fun, right? It gets worse.

My mom never could quite shake her cough.

“I’m afraid it’s pneumonia again,” said her GP.

“It’s your asthma flaring up because you have pneumonia,” said the PA who squeezed her in when her fever returned and her shortness of breath worsened.

In the wee hours of Christmas morning, I made a panicked phone call to 911. We were visiting my aunt and uncle for the holidays and staying at the hotel, as a burst pipe had ravaged the guest bedrooms at my aunt and uncle’s home, leaving them unusable. Mom and I were chatting about what to watch on TV first — our family tradition is to watch the cartoon version of the Grinch, Talladega Nights (yes, we’re weird), and a Harry Potter marathon — when she stopped answering and started thrashing.

It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life.

The fire department arrived first, proving yet again why I adore firefighters. Fortunately, the EMTs weren’t far behind. She was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, sirens wailing. My uncle and I brought up the rear of our small caravan because they refused to let me ride with her. After all, we had no idea what was wrong with her at the time, and I like to imagine they didn’t want me to watch my mother die. (In reality, they most likely assumed I would only be in the way.)

It was a febrile seizure. When her fever broke and she was able to speak again, her chief complaint was shortness of breath. Another CT. Another round of doctors claiming they saw something but didn’t know what it was. They recommended a follow-up CT back home but advised her to let the pneumonia clear up first. They also couldn’t rule out scar tissue.

It took two more bouts of “pneumonia” and two more CT scans before we got the diagnosis. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened were it not for an eagle-eyed radiologist who finally realized he wasn’t looking at pneumonia or scar tissue.

The entire experience left my mother, who jokingly calls herself “a dinosaur nurse,” disillusioned and disgusted. It left me pissed off.

Yet again, the health concerns of former smokers are ignore and dismissed when the first thing that should come to mind is “let’s send her to a pulmonologist and rule out cancer.”

Thanks for sticking with us this far. More to come.

We’re just getting started.

The Blame Game Behind Lung Cancer

The words ‘my mother has cancer,’ typically met by hand-wringing well-wishers fraught with concern, turn insidious the moment the formerly concerned hear the full diagnosis: non small cell squamous carcinoma of the lung.

That’s when the questioning begins: Does she smoke? Did she ever smoke? Do you smoke?

(For the curious, the answers to the aforementioned questions are as follows: No. Yes. No, but I used to.)

No one says it outright, but the implication is clear: She only has herself to blame, or maybe you gave it to her.

Unlike breast cancer or pancreatic cancer, lung cancer carries the stigma of you brought this on yourself; what did you think was going to happen? There are no pretty pink ribbons for lung cancer survivors. There is no highly televised ‘save the lungs’ campaign. (And don’t get me started on how dehumanizing ‘save the tatas’ is. How about ‘save the women?’ Or ‘save the patients’ since not all breast cancer sufferers are women.) But I digress. I’m doing a lot of that these days.

That’s why I’ve been MIA from the blog lately. I’ll be moving to and fro between New Orleans and Jackson, Mississippi to be with my mother during treatment. To be frank, it’s probably going to be a real shit-show. It already has been in a lot of ways. I’ll go into more detail in another post, but right now I’m physically and mentally tired. I wanted to update everyone and purge myself of this entry before it bubbled out of me in a vitriol-filled rant (or, more likely, in ugly sobbing against the first cat I could lay hands on).

With my mother’s permission, I’m going to be writing more about her cancer journey on here. For my own peace of mind. To document her battle. And, hopefully, to help those of you who are going through the same thing.

Fuck cancer.