How to be sick: Faking inner sparkle, inner ok-ness, and Planning ahead.

One of the ridiculous things about getting seriously sick when managing your health is already a long-term project is how humiliating it is. Something that’s out of your control somehow feels like a personal failure. How could I let this happen?

On top of which, the main font from which I usually use to get self-esteem – work – wasn’t possible. I wasn’t coherent enough to read all those worthy books I’d been meaning to catch up on.

I felt valueless. A burden. Someone who lets other people down and disrupts plans.  e.g

  1. I couldn’t attend my father in law’s birthday.
  2. My husband cut his weekend trip short (this is when we thought it was a bad cold) to come back.
  3. I couldn’t make a client video call meeting and delivered maybe under half of what I thought I could in the timeframe.

And I sure as hell didn’t look cute.

All I could do is watch Netflix and browse Pinterest and Amazon for shiny things.

In this post, I’ll talk about three things:

1. How to Fake Inner Sparkle

For seeing Doctors

For seeing doctors, I’d recommend just an all in one bb -cream/tinted moisturiser and a clean look. This tinted spf 50 is what got me looking a little less pale than I should have looked while protecting my sun sensitive skin from Madrid summer sun when going from one ER unit (general) to another (I needed a hospital with an Ophthalmologist at one point)

Benefit cha-cha tint helped me fake some kind of non-deathly pallor over the last two weeks. (but I really wished I had a bronzer as well)

While Too Faced liquid lipstick in “It’s happening” made me feel a lot brighter and cheery while distracting from the fact I couldn’t wear eye makeup and my eyes were bloodshot. 

For when you’re recovering

I told you I spent most of the last two weeks browsing the net, too zonked to even read, right? This was from of the vanity portion of that browsing.
This holographic lipgloss

This pink ombre wig

 and this pastel and silver wig

both inspired by Ariana Grande’s lavender look.

What I actually bought, however, was this silver ombre glory.

I also found this video on how to make lace front wigs look more natural

2. Inner ok-ness

Listing out all the things I’m grateful for is something I try and do every morning, but is even more important when I’m feeling bad.

Having food in the fridge

A fan in the bedroom

A hospital so close by I could walk there

Having access to both public and private healthcare

Already having a neti pot and humidifier – both recommended by dr.

The fact that my neti pot is plastic because I’ve dropped it multiple times and it would have been on the “meaning to replace” list had it been ceramic.

Having Netflix

Having enough Spanish to deal with the doctors

That duolingo is free

How lovely hospital staff are.

Having prescription sunglasses (I can’t wear contacts for a few weeks and this climate demands sunnies)

Getting sent photos of epic sandwiches – it’s the small things that distract you that count so much.

Epilating. I may meet my maker but it won’t be as a wolf-woman.

ALL the things my hubs did for me. From cutting his trip short, to bringing me sandwiches in the ER waiting room, to watching Pixar films with me.

There’s also the extremely helpful book called “how to be sick” that has helped me so much over the years. It’s a Buddhist approach to chronic illness.

3. Planning ahead

There was a fair amount of planning ahead that helped me through these last few weeks.

  1. Having emergency, allergy-friendly canned food in the cupboards for situations like this. Ready to be opened and microwaved.
  2. Having a “sick day” bag: a little toiletry bag with various painkillers, paracetamol, antihistamines, and allergy friendly cold and flu meds. All within easy reach in the bedside drawer.
  3. Frozen food and frozen homemade meals. I use a 6 litre slow cooker even though it’s just the hubs and me because it allows us to freeze surplus portions and keep them for days when doing groceries or cooking – or both – aren’t possible. I also buy bags of various frozen veggies.
  4. Marie kondo-ing my all-black wardrobe made getting dressed and looking respectable -aka worth taking seriously- easy even when somewhat delirious.
  5. Having GTD in place for domestic and other things means I didn’t have to get stressed about what I needed to keep on top of. It was all externalised, ready for me when my strength and brainpower was back. Deadlines were firmly in my calendar so I didn’t miss my tax return deadlines.
  6. I have workflows set up for multi-step processes, so things like taxes can be done on autopilot even when near enough brain dead. This was so helpful last week.  I can usually get my quarterlies done in less than an hour this way, although, with brain fog, it took a little longer. I also have documented workflows set up for my birdcare in case I need someone to do those for me.
  7. Batch cooking: making a whole roast chicken when I sensed I was going to be down over the coming days and the hubs was travelling was a good call. I was bored after a few days, but I was fed.
  8. My pink planner with upgraded rings that functioned – besides its usual GTD role – as a:  symptom journal, meds tracker, and historical medical files binder when moving between hospitals in a country without a centralised data centre for health files.

IMG_2503.jpg  I won’t lie: I felt pretty stupid with the amount of cute rainbow shit in it while flipping through various admin staff, nurses and dr’s, but no one could say I wasn’t the most organised and well-prepped patient: handing out relevant past medical tests to the ER dr to help him interpret my xrays that day with more context.

I will scan all my notes digitally into mac Notes app, because I realise having had my original xray scans would have been the most useful thing on the day I had my xray. It’s just, I’m not sure how I would be able to give those files to a dr from on my phone. Paper works really well as it seems they often like to spread all the sheets out and get an overview while looking at the latest results. Having to flick between screens isn’t as helpful. But I do always have my phone with me.

My best advice if you’re managing chronic health issues is: always plan ahead:

  • What kinds of symptoms are most likely to need treatment if you wake up sick or having a bad health day? Can you make up a grab-bag for that?
  • Are there places other than near the bed that are likely to benefit from an emergency pack? Workplace? The car? I have a smaller bag for travels as well.
  • What systems of self-care tend to break down when you’re sick? How can you prep in advance for those?
  • What kind of info do you need to be handed over to someone else who might want to help you/ take care of pets/domestic things?
    • Emergency shopping lists
    • prescriptions to fulfil and locations to get them (if relevant)
    • Household or pet-related tasks that need doing a certain way. These can be pre-written down in a list template or bunched together in a planner for handing over. Many to-do apps allow you to add photos as well if the steps need explaining in more detail and send the list to a third party.
  • What kind of info does a medical person need to know to make sense if you’re admitted in the ER? Can you put that in a place you’ll remember to reference and have on you when you’re not so with it?
  • Perhaps create an online grocery shopping in a store that delivers at home for essentials to get through the week. That way, at the first sign of illness, you can place an order quickly.
  • Dehydration makes everything worse. Make up a 1litre jug with 6 level teaspoons of sugar and half a level teaspoon on non-iodized salt before going to bed, especially if there’s a fever, and extra especially if it’s summer.
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Roundup: personalised gif cards, Circus themed tarot decks, parrot pendant, and spaghetti with breadcrumbs & anchovies recipe

This is just a roundup of things I’ve been browsing while sick and on round the clock meds. I thought I would have all this time to read, but my brain was too fried.

  • Make your own printed gif cards
  • This recipe would work great with ground up porcini mushrooms and GF breadcrumbs & pasta. It would be a bit on starches for anyone GF, so maybe with almonds instead of breadcrumbs and some quinoa spaghetti?
    • spaghetti-with-breadcrumbs-14
  • Circo tarot deck: a circus-themed tarot deck that’s very cute, and beginner friendly
circo1_1024x1024
Image from Circle of Stitches

Yes, I do like a bit of magic crystal woo-woo, especially since it’s easier to identify and connect unconscious feelings when looking at images.

A female Ferris Bueller might have said:

“life goes by pretty fast. Do tarot every few weeks to make sure you’re not missing recurring themes & unconscious feelings that impact your decision making and impulses.”

I’m liking how many modern takes on tarot cards are being made by young female artists and illustrators! Here’s the Star Child Tarot


and here’s Mystic Mondays , which you can pre-order on its site, or through amazon.co.uk.  PS, the silver bits are holographic!

  • this adorable lorikeet pendant that catches how playful parrots are. I wouldn’t actually wear this because I’d be afraid of damaging it. Look at those delicate feet!lorikeet_parrot_necklace_by_illusiontree-d6x4did

You know what’s actually crazy about the last two weeks? How I managed to keep up with parrot cage cleaning, albeit at every two-day intervals instead of every day. And I’m talking at a time before I felt well enough to go the ER, at which point the hospital was on the fence about sending me home or admitting me. Also, I managed to at least keep my plants alive in this almost-desert humidity levels and intense summer sun.

  • Stickers for your bujo/planner/notebook/laptop. Just cute stuff I found on redbubble.

I did browse a lot more, but that’s enough for today. There was also a very serious wig & nail polish obsession.

Today is my last day of antibiotics and my brain feels less foggy and I’m looking a more natural color. I’m aiming to just have a fun, relaxing Sunday and not even think about all the things I need to catch up with starting tomorrow.

What’s been inspiring you this week?

The Creative (ADHD) Person’s Guide to Productivity at Home

I am a woman in a domestic relationship, and thus, no matter how enlightened my partner is and aspires to be, no matter how much my mom flat out refused to cook, clean, or buy my brother and I gendered toys as children, I am still affected by cultural expectations ambient in our environment. This means that while both of us work from home most days, I feel the burden of needing to shop, cook and tidy up most of the time. We discuss this. He tells me I can delegate, I can ask. I think that needing to delegate often will be seen as me being “not in control” by him subtly. We discuss why I would feel that way. We’re a two person cultural panel-cum-assignment-taskforce.

I used to be in a relationship where we “understood” each other and never discussed anything but fun things. It worked great until we grew up. I prefer this way.

While working for yourself is pleasant, being your own project manager, sales team, marketing team, HR department (what training should I do next?), head of strategy & investments, and own legal team is draining. I’m also the webmistress of my boyfriends Political Economics blog and facebook page (he’s slowly becoming a big deal) and in-house IT person. I’m planning a wedding, have a parrot who — like all parrots— needs a lot of attention to be emotionally healthy and happy, am always training for the next race and have a project on the side which tends to get ignored on weeks like this week when the wedding website has problems with translating widget content.

My time is very full.

Distractions have to go if I ever want to deliver assignments, maintain basic hygiene standards and eat one square meal a day.

But there is a difference between being focused and being effective. Effectiveness is when you focus on worthwhile things and I’ll discuss that at the bottom.

How I get Shit Done

  • Pomodoro all the things. You know how when you hear there are people on the way over you run around cleaning for ten minutes then wonder why your place never looks this tidy normally? That’s the kind of result setting a 20 minute timer gives you. Having a timer on means I have to prioritise: unload & reload dishwasher, or put the plates by the sink to be cleaned before doing dinner? Change the bird’s cage liner, or just vacuum around the cage? Do the floors NEED cleaning or just spot vacuuming/wiping? By the timer runs out, the place looks respectable, but I didn’t get sucked into it. I also Pomodoro time personal admin (emails to my tax guy, dealings with Oxfordshire country council, or my letting agency in the UK), which is by far the thing I hate doing the most. knowing I’ll only spend 25 minutes doing something makes it seems less daunting, and I reply to emails faster and worry less about the wording. It ends, and if I need more time, I will get back to it another day or in another session.
  1. Planning the week.  After I’m done with the morning swipe and have my coffee, I check my planner. This is the wireframe for my week where I keep workouts, deadlines, and day related tasks or appointments as well as plan tasks around energy intensive social obligations so I’m not drained or overwhelmed on the day. The most important thing about this system is that I only have the things I need to do this week on there. Some things might be day specific, but I like to leave tasks as for the week. This gives me a little bit of time to get everything done without a panic if I don’t get something done on a particular day.  The reason paper works better for me is because I can’t “cheat” with it and perpetually move tasks to the next day, like I do with digital to do lists.It’s either checked off, or it’s not. Also, it doesn’t annoy me with popups and alerts, which distract me from what I’m doing in the moment.  For tasks that have multiple steps associated with them (as most of my digital work does, as well as wedding planning) it’s easier to break those next actions down and space and schedule them out in trello.
  2. Scrum Points for Spoonies: Inside trello, I use an extension that allows scrum points to be added to cards, although as a solo worker, I don’t use scrum. Scrum points are an estimation of effort and that helps me be realistic about how much I can get done in a day as a spoonie. Above 21 points in a day is a sign I’ve taken on too much..
  3. Maintain regular work hours: blocking off my time -as much as possible- really helps me focus. Also, I know my relaxation time is after 8, and that I have time to workout, do the evening tidyup, and run whatever errands I need and chillax thanks to my planning steps above.
  4. Capture Inspiration While doing stuff, other ideas will pop into my head that are not related to the task at hand. I have one page in my planner for incoming ideas I want to expand one. If the idea is a good one, it can get expanded on later and added as a project in my queue. But capturing it allows me to get back to what I’m doing without spending energy trying to “hold that thought”.
  5. Block distractions. As I said about paper planners, notifications are distractions. In my mac I switch off as many of these as possible (even slack) and only have my time logging tool reminding me to log my billable time. I’m not a sysadmin, so I can check alerts on my breaks. I also use RescueTime, which only allows me to check certain sites on Pomodoro breaks until 8pm. The best thing about Rescue Time is that it tracks your behaviour on mobile as well as computer and scores you daily on productivity.
  6. Avoid email. Email is a time sinkhole. There’s always something interesting to check out, but the time to do that not now. Sending emails happens after work is done, in the personal admin pomodoro.
  7. Hide the taskbar and app-launcher.Yes, I’m serious about blocking distractions, and the taskbar and app-launcher are just reminders of OTHER things I could do or should pay attention to, like edit that youtube video for my channel with only one video on it, or that blog post on how people make decisions for my work blog. The thing is, I can’t do anything effectively with my mind of something else. The best thing I can do is focus on the task at hand and leave others for after whatever I’m working on is done.
  8. The ADHD buster: I have a column in trello called “doing” which may only have one card at any given time. I have a goldfish memory, and if anything interrupts me (answering the door for a delivery), it takes me a while to remember what I’m supposed to be doing, especially with all those other lovely ideas popping up all the time. Referring to the “doing now” column in trello stops me opening another tab or getting lost in a new tangential idea and makes me want to push that card into the “done” column.

There is one sneaky thing I’m not telling you, though.

It’s really easy to stay busy. 

Especially if — like me — you equate being busy with being useful. Yes, the opportunities for being busy are everywhere.

Being effective is hard.

It’s important to assess each would-be project in terms of positive impact on my life, or on others.  To that end, I have a page in my planner about areas of responsibility: (work, house, health, business, partner, parrot, etc.) and another page for my values.  There are just there for me to review, not to link to anything.

Every app I’ve tried that links these areas to projects and those project to tasks takes more time to manage than is worthwhile.

It’s up to me to make sure that my projects -whether building a raspberry pi powered amazon echo*, or baking an actual raspberry pie- align with those areas of responsibility and those values.

Otherwise, it’s not worth my time.

What about you? How do you manage your time? Especially for the energy or health challenged, I’d love to hear your tips!

*Designing pleasant voice interactions for products is an area of responsibility in my work and also ties with my values of making the interface as out of the way as possible. If I could, you would blink twice and think of pizza and it would arrive.

Mental bookmark

While frustrating, stressful and upsetting things happen in the non-blog world, I am trying not to write about them here as I feel it only makes me dwell on them more. I acknowledge them, but try and refocus for the benefit of not feeling drained all day. Also, it means I save money on bleach, giant bin bags, and duct tape. Continue reading

The “Hobbies” of food allergy people

For most people, a hobby is a passion, a pastime, some thing you do for fun that takes you out of your usual world. It’s indicative of having a little bit of spare time, and maybe depending on what the hobby is, indicative of having a little spare change.

When people used to talk about hobbies, I used to find myself a little sour on the subject, because all my spare time and a great deal of my spare money was taken up by one thing: allergy maintenance. Continue reading

The anti-fashionista handbook

I hate shopping for clothes. I hate the time I spend doing it when I could be doing something I enjoy more, like watching “Once Upon A time”, playing The Sims, hanging out with my bird and eating my weight in popcorn, or having some quality time with my boyfriend and making an epic dinner. I also dislike the concept of paying almost as much for a leather jacket as I could for a professional graphic design quality LCD monitor, especially as I have a functional jacket, and need a better monitor.

In my pre-spoonie life, I loved clothes shopping: I had more time on my hands and more disposable income, and my skin wasn’t so sensitive to fabrics. But life has changed, so I streamline to make room for more important and more enjoyable stuff. Continue reading

We’re human, wi…

We’re human, with every drop of beauty and ugliness that label carries with it. The angel and the demon, all rolled up together.

We cry and we crack, inside and outward. We stumble and fall and fail and flail. We simmer and seethe, and also we soothe. We give and forgive. We hold to each other and hold ourselves tight. We do what we can, as best as we can, as long as we can.

And when we falter, we patch the cracks as best we can, make our apologies, and try again. That’s what keeps our failings from making us failures. We try again, one day at a time.

TW: child illness. child death.

Erik Meyer is one of the gods of web design, and author of one of the few hardcopy books I still own.