Anxiety, Eczema, It me, mental health, personal, tattoos

New Year, New You, New Danger

img_6787

I’m a bit of a sucker for a new start. I love the idea of each year being a tabula rasa filled to the brim with potential. I buzz off the excitement of new projects, the crisp lines of a new notebook, the opportunity contained within the pages of an empty diary. But, I’m also acutely aware that writing about new year’s resolutions is one of the worst lifestyle blogging cliches. And, before you say anything, I also know that reading about other people’s new year’s resolutions – many of which they’ll have broken by the second week of the year – is pretty boring. So, I’m (going to do my best) not to write about them here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about reinvention recently. I read this piece by Deborah Orr in the Guardian and was shocked by how much I related to her experiences of living with difficult mental health. Like too many people I know, last year wasn’t the easiest one for me. I was stuck in a job I hated (and was eventually made redundant from), experiencing some pretty nasty health issues, saw too many bad things happen to the people I love and – the cherry on top of this cake of shit – the return of the crippling anxiety and depression that has plagued me since my teenage years. At one particularly low point, I deactivated all of my social media accounts and almost deleted this blog because I was just so tired of seeing everyone else leading brighter, better, happier lives than mine. I hated the way I looked, I hated the way I felt and I hated logging on to discover everyone living it up while I was stagnating.

Of course, this is not a particularly rational way of thinking. Particularly for someone who works in social media and so should be totally aware of the glitter and artifice people sprinkle over their lives when discussing them online. Being alone with my thoughts only made them worse. I found it increasingly difficult to get out of bed and had to start working from home more to accommodate this. I was having panic attacks in my sleep and drinking too much. When I was at my office, I would repeatedly find myself bursting into tears and having to go and hide in the toilets. I had to finally face up to the fact that I needed help.

I went back onto antidepressants and discovered one that worked for me (I had been wary of them since a terrible experience with Citalopram in my late 20s.) I started seeing a therapist who helped me to unpick some of my ways of thinking and examine them in a new light. Being made redundant helped me to realise that one of the reasons I was so depressed was because I was in a job which wasn’t right for me and it provided me with the impetus (and money) I needed to finally go it alone.

I’m saying all of this not out of a desire to make people feel sorry for me, but more because I’m proud of managing to come out on the other side. I did some amazing work in 2016 – both professionally and personally. I’m entering 2017 happier, stronger and with much better hair. I’ve also acquired some awesome tattoos, but that’s by-the-by.

img_7209

My noble steed

Like many people, I have big plans for 2017. I want to write more, both for myself and for others. I want to make my freelance career a success. I want to be more careful with my money, not just because I am acutely aware of the precariousness of freelance life but also because I want to find methods of self care which don’t just involve purchasing things that I don’t really need.

My friend James came to visit me over the Christmas break and was kind enough to fix up the old Raleigh Shopper bike which had been gathering dust in my hallway for a number of years. Last week, I found myself going on a 13 mile bike ride alongside the River Mersey, enjoying the feel of the wind through my hair and feeling so incredibly lucky to live in such a scenic part of England. I don’t know what will happen to me this year. But I know that if I continue to take pleasure in the little things, I’ll be OK.

Standard
About me, Beauty, Eczema, plus sized bloggers, plus sized blogging

Scratch, scratch, itch. What it’s like to live with chronic eczema

Wasn't I a cute toddler? You can see patches of eczema here on my cheeks.

Wasn’t I a cute toddler? You can see patches of eczema here on my cheeks.

Imagine waking up one morning and discovering that your hands were covered in tiny, painful blisters. You’d probably feel alarmed and more than a little freaked out. Now, imagine that alongside giant itchy red blotches on your face, chest and arms. These blisters and blotches become dry and flaky in the summer and get irritated by everything from dust mites to moisturisers. In the winter, your hands become inflamed and your fingers crack and bleed at the joints. Your skin is so angry and irritated, you think it would just be easier to bathe in a huge pool of antihistamine laced hand cream. This is my life with chronic eczema and it absolutely sucks.

I’ve suffered from atopic dermatitis (the medical name for my eczema) for most of my life. My parents have mountains of baby pictures of me where my cheeks are flushed bright red with irritation. When I was 4, I got impetigo which meant my hands practically had to be sewed into mittens so I didn’t constantly scratch myself (which made for some great ‘furious toddler Christina’ moments.) In the pictures I have of my 21st birthday celebrations, I’m wearing a tonne of foundation because I’d used a face mask which made my skin flare up. Possibly the worst moment (or best if you’re amused by gigantic bodily appendages) came when I was in my last year of university. I was trying to write my dissertation when one of the cracks in my skin became infected. This caused my right hand to swell up to three times its normal size, leak pus everywhere and was swiftly proceeded by a trip to King’s College Hospital’s A&E department.

At the moment, I am suffering from a particularly nasty case of perioral (mouth), peri-ocular (eye area) and atopic (hands & chest) eczema. My skin looks like a giant red dot-to-dot puzzle, my eyelids are two masses of dry skin and my lips are constantly chapped. My hands are usually sore from blisters and skin wounds and my entire body boils and itches. At one point, I was forced to cover my hands in an evil smelling petroleum ointment and sleep with cotton gloves on so I didn’t claw at myself during the night. I only stopped when a private dermatologist informed me that I’d been given incorrect advice on how to apply it and that using it without the aid of a special spatula would actually cause more eczema.

A recent picture of me. You can see quite a large patch of eczema on the side of my face.

A recent picture of me. You can see quite a large patch of eczema on the side of my face.

I have become addicted to reading skin care blogs, hoping that one of them will lead me to some magical product which will make me feel human again. While I feel like I’ve tried every wonder cure going, that’s still not stopped me spending an eye watering amount of money on various emollients, steroid creams, face masks and other skin soothing lotions and potions. At one point, I was caught by a rather concerned looking SpaceNK assistant holding up a bottle of expensive face oil and whispering to it please fix my skin. I just want to feel pretty and when you’ve got a face covered in scaly red blotches, it can be very hard to feel pretty.

Living with such visible eczema makes you incredibly self conscious. On bad days, I look in the mirror and see nothing but wrinkles and cracks, all covered in a patina of dry white flakes. In a world where women are frequently praised for their fresh, bouncy, line-free skin, I feel like I’m failing somehow. I drink lots of water, I double cleanse, I use a really-fucking-expensive serum, so why am I not glowing like a sunbeam?

I win daily battles with my skin – fighting the infections, soothing the soreness, lathering myself in steroids, powdering over the blotches – but it is relentless. I am at war with my body, and it feels like I am losing. I’ve lost count of the amount of hours I’ve spent in doctors and dermatologists offices this year crying because nothing is alleviating my symptoms. Earlier this month, I went back on antidepressants with one of the triggers being how depressed and anxious I felt about my skin. While I’m no longer waking up in the middle of the night with panic attacks, that hasn’t stopped the slow, insistent creep of blisters across my palms.

While I may moan on here and on Twitter, I know that I am lucky. I have an understanding partner who supports and comforts me when I feel at my wits end. I have an employer who provides me with private health insurance meaning that I can see a private dermatologist. I earn enough money to pay for all the various treatments my skin needs. I have been referred for patch testing – an exhausting and stinky process which will require frequent trips to the hospital and not being able to wash for seven days – which means I may finally be able to discover what triggers my eczema (alongside the cold, the heat, soap, exfoliants and myriad other factors.)

I want to say that I have learned to live with my eczema, but I don’t think I ever will. It will always be a part of my life. I just don’t want it to be my life.

 

Standard
ASOS, ASOS Curve, Beauty, Eczema, gold, MAC, metallics, Outfit post, outfits, Plus sized, plus sized bloggers, plus sized blogging, plus sized fashion, psbloggers, Topshop, Trousers, Work wear

Peg Leg

I’m not a huge wearer of trousers. I think I have some residual trauma from years of wearing awful polyester school pants followed by trying to buy jeans which fit properly. But one of my 2016 fashion resolutions was to experiment more with my look, both with clothes and make-up . I loved how these peg leg trousers were styled on the ASOS Curve website and thought they would be great to wear for work and play.

Full length 2

TOP: ASOS Curve

TROUSERS: ASOS Curve

SHOES: ASOS

NECKLACE: Topshop

EARRINGS: Topshop

I didn’t expect much from these trousers to be honest. I worried that they’d go baggy after a few wears or slip down my hips and accidentally reveal my butt at inconvenient moments. But they are super comfy, super stretchy and have pleasingly deep pockets. My colleagues have nicknamed these my ‘Beetlejuice trousers’ because they do look like something you would wear for a Beetlejuice cosplay. Hey, he did know how to rock a stripe.

Full length 1

I’ve tended to wear these with heeled boots, but now the weather’s getting warmer, these super cool heeled silver ASOS loafers are getting more of an outing. They look so good that I will forgive them for giving me some ridiculously painful blisters the first time I wore them.

Kitchen selfie

I’ve been suffering terribly from eczema around my cheeks, chin, mouth and eyes recently. I’ll write more about my experiences with this soon, but it’s really dented my confidence. I consider myself to be a woman who is very comfortable with her looks, but it’s still hard when you look in the mirror and see huge, angry looking red blotches all over your face.

I’m slowly getting to grips with it thanks to a lovely dermatologist and spending an eye watering sum of money on topical steroids. But I thought I’d do a slightly more bronzed look (with some added eye make-up) to go with this outfit. I used MAC’s Charlotte Olympia collection cream color base in ‘Golden Age’, followed by MAC’s eyeshadow in Swiss Chocolate. I then went over this with a gold eye pencil I’d received in my Birchbox a few months ago. The lipstick is my beloved MAC Charlotte Olympia ‘Retro Rouge’ which is pretty much my go-to red at the moment. I love how well it complements my hair and eyes, plus it lasts for ages. Which is handy when you drink as much tea as I do.

Standard
Beauty, Eczema, Face Masks, Glossier

McMc’s beauty corner: Glossier’s face masks

Glossier stickers

If 2015 was the year I spent an indecent amount on jumpsuits and lipstick, then 2016 looks set to be the year where I spend an indecent amount of money on my face. This is partly due to the dual horrors of ageing (hello dark circles under my eyes!) and vanity (hello me caring too much about dark circles under my eyes!) and partly because my skin is an eczema battleground. I feel like I’ve spent far too much time over the past few months forlornly wandering around Space NK and whispering ‘please fix my face’ at bemused beauty assistants.

I’ve tried a lot of things in my quest to cure my irritated skin without having to constantly resort to steroids (so much so that I’ve been forced to buy a new cupboard for my bathroom to store all my products.) But I think I may have finally found facegoop nirvana with Glossier.

Glossier is the beauty brand created by the people behind the luxe beauty blog Into The Gloss. (I’m addicted to their ‘The Top Shelf’ column where they go poking around people’s bathrooms as I am incredibly nosy and love reading about the beauty routines of those who have more money and time than me.) They’re a bit of a cult brand in the USA and have been getting rave reviews for their make-up, particularly their eyebrow pomade, Boy Brow.

Unfortunately, they don’t currently ship to the UK but I managed to find a rather lovely person on Twitter who was happy to send some of their stuff over to me. I opted for three products – the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack and Moisturising Moon Mask which are recommended to be used in tandem and the aforementioned Boy Brow (which will be reviewed in a later post.)

Mega Greens Galaxy Pack

Made up of leafy greens, ‘superfruit antioxidants’ and white kaolin clay, the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack is described as being a ‘juice cleanse for your face.’ As someone who eschews green juices, cleanses and green juice cleanses, you could forgive me for being slightly wary. (And don’t get me started on the whole ‘detoxification’ language thrown around on their website.) However, in the interests of research, I slathered a large amount of it onto my face and set my timer for 20 minutes waiting for it to do its work.

Greens facepack face

I’d decided to err on the side of caution as I’ve found a lot of clay face masks to be quite drying, but I could probably have gone thicker with the application here as I did find that quite a bit of this sunk into my face. However, I absolutely loved how this felt on my skin – it was cleansing and nourishing without that awful tight cracking feeling you can get with other clay face masks. When I washed it off, my skin definitely felt firmer, bouncier and brighter.

Moisturising Moon Mask

Glossier recommend that you use their Moisturising Moon Mask as a ‘chaser’ to the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack. As you may have guessed, this mask promises moisture – and lots of it. Filled with almond oil, honey and aloe to soothe and liquorice root and lemon extract to brighten, the blurb for this makes it sound like the face mask equivalent of one of those soothing whale song apps.

Mega Moon Mask face

The texture of  this is much lighter and – for want of a better word – gloopier than the greens mask. It reminded me of my trusty Body Shop Aloe Soothing Rescue Mask which I’ve been using as an overnight treatment to help calm and soothe the blotchy red eczema patches I tend to find under my eyes and on my cheeks. It did the job though. I left it on for the recommended 20 minutes and when I washed it off, my skin looked less aggravated and blotchy. Plus, all the red patches had settled down. My face also looked – and felt – incredible. Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I used a face mask which left my skin looking so dewy and fresh.

Post-Glossier facial face

I’m guilty of being incredibly aware of my appearance, particularly my face. Having eczema, particularly in such a visible place, makes me feel incredibly self conscious. While I can – and do – go to great lengths to cover it up, anything which can help calm the raging, itchy fires bubbling away underneath my epidermis will always get a thumbs up from me. I’d definitely recommend Glossier’s skincare products if you’re suffering from dull or blotchy skin, or if you just need an excuse to pamper yourself with some really nice smelling stuff for an hour or so. The two masks and ‘Boy Brow’ cost me $60 altogether (which is roughly £40) without shipping. While it’s not cheap, I’d definitely recommend asking a kind transatlantic person to nab some for you if they can. Also, each package comes with free stickers. Who doesn’t love stickers?

Have you tried Glossier’s products yet? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Standard