Monday, August 18, 2014

Dog Therapy

Itches, stress, embarrassment and general upset..

But then, at just shy of 3 a.m., I get this face.

And the world shrinks down to the two of us.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bentonite Clay? Guinea Pig Time!!

A few months ago, I stumbled into an article hailing the merits of bentonite clay, especially for skin. After a lot more research, I purchased a bag of bentonite clay powder, along with some rosehip seed oil and shea oil, from an online store.

It's been sitting in my spice cabinet ever since.

However, after a particularly hard two weeks (huzzah for bronchitis and being put on a prednisone taper), my skin was a mess. Since I have a grand total of one day left of prednisone, I decided that now was the time to suck it up and try out bentonite clay.

I chose my right forearm for the experiment, since for some reason my forearms got the brunt of the breakout, and are covered in red irritation. I mixed one part clay powder with 2 parts water (I used 3, actually, since all 2 did was turn the bentonite into a clumpy, half wet half dry unmixable mess). Mixing the clay was no picnic- it's a very thick consistancy, and you can't use a metal utensil because the metal does something to the clay (I'll link some articles if this  turns out to be an effective treatment), so I used a big plastic bowl and a whisk made of a nonstick material. When all the whisk did was give the clay mixture somewhere else to stick, I switched to a wooden and silicone spatula, which more or less did the trick.
Then, I applied a layer of clay to my forearm, wrapping my forearm in plastic to keep the clay moist (see pictures below).

Now, I feel a bit like poorly wrapped leftovers, but at least the clay is still moist, and isn't getting everywhere while it does its work. 

It's been ten minutes, and I think that, after another five, I'll remove the compress.
So far, the bentonite hasn't caused any irritation that I can feel- the skin under the plastic, however, is starting to feel pretty uncomfortable- if this works, I'll have to find a different way to do things so the rest of the arm isn't just touching the plastic.

Okay, it's 10:33 a.m... at 10:38, I'll remove the clay and see what effects it had, if any.

Here's hoping!

Monday, July 14, 2014

When It Shows On Your Face

To that one person who happens to follow this unformed mess of a blog with some consistancy (because hey, it's a big world out there, right? A girl can dream)- if you do exist, I apologize for not posting lately. I know I promised myself (and perhaps the world, in a previous post) that I'd start being more active, but life gets in the way sometimes. These past few weeks have been tough all around. I had a very disappointing encounter with a prospective new dermatologist (more on that later). I also find myself being absconded with on pretty much a daily basis, and being kept busy all day, every day thanks to a certain someone appearing for an elongated visit in town; it's not that her appearance is unwelcome, I'm just not used to the level of activity she tries to achieve every day.

Most notably though, was a very unpleasant encounter I had with a member of my household.

He has a dog, a very sweet female, who he loves, and who loves him. While I don't doubt that he does everything he can for her, she is his first dog, and owning an animal is a learning experience- there's a lot that you don't know when you first start out- and that's fine, as long as you are open to learning more, whether from vets, or books, or more often, people who have some more experience than you.

This guy, unfortunately, is Not open to any input about his dog. He sees it as some sort of affront- I guess maybe he thinks of someone offering advice or tips about his dog as an insult, like through the action that person is implying that he's clueless or stupid (For the record, the only way I'd view anyone as stupid in this situation was if they,  for whatever reason[like some odd form of pride],  chose to remain ignorant to the possible detriment of their pet- but perhaps I've said too much ;) ).

Anyway, to make a long story as short as I reasonably can- cut me some slack, I am a writer, after all- one day, this person took his dog for a run, which he's done before. This time, though, it was Really hot outside- at least 80 degrees and very sunny. When he arrived back from the run, his dog was exhibiting a lot of signs of heat stroke. Concerned, I asked if she was alright. Instead of answering me, he mumbled something about how she was his dog before taking her up to his room. I was still really worried, so I phoned a local emergency vet, left out names and described her symptoms, asking if there was anything that could be done from home. I figured I'd get concrete  information and approach him reasonably and ask how she was, and suggest something to help her.

Of course, he found out about my phone call. What followed was a nasty confrontation- he was yelling at me, talking over me, ranting that I had no right, that his dog was not my problem. I felt he was trying to intimidate me at a few points, he was belittling, condescending and hostile. Eventually, I started raising my voice, not with the intention of exacerbating the situation. It was more that I refused to be railroaded and not get a chance to defend myself in this so called 'conversation', especially when the encounter itself was incredibly unreasonable, and I would not be painted as the bad guy, or the problem, when all I did was express concern for his dog, who I live with, and so, in a way, she is my problem, too.

By the end of it, I was a wreck; I was shaking and so pissed off that I could barely form a sentence. This overwhelming frustration boiled inside of me, this feeling of having my hands tied, of being absolutely powerless to make the situation better without cowtowing and compromising myself. I was still upset when I went to bed.

And when I woke up the next morning, my entire face, neck, and parts of my body were covered in eczema flare.

What a lot of people don't know is that, much like stress can cause breakouts in people who have acne, an eczema flare can be triggered by stress or intense emotional responses.

So that morning, when I got up, the reaction I had to what had happened the night before was written all over my face- there for all the world to see.

Imagine, for a second, if you don't suffer from any skin conditions, what it's like when your body flashes a neon sign if you experience stress, and it's one that everyone can see, but very few understand the meaning of. Imagine your body compounding the stress or hardship you're already experiencing by reacting to it in a way that only makes things harder- adding pain, discomfort, self consciousness and all the other results of a breakout or flare into the already taxing mix.

Now, imagine what I just described, happening every single time.

It's been over a week, but my flare, instead of going down, just got worse. Finally, another trip to urgent care. Another round of oral steroids. Another steroid injection.

All because of one stupid argument with one very difficult man.

Once More, With Feeling

It's just after midnight, another weekend gone, and I'm lying in bed in my cluttered room with Lucy, as she contentedly snuffles around with a black and orange duck toy left unattended by another of the household canines.

As I watch her, playing a sedate game of 'tug' as I grab the duck, my hand under the blanket, and she tries again and again to free it, my heart is calm. For these few moments, the world has shrunk down to encompass the goings on of a placid game of tug of war.

She wins. Comes and sits, staring at me, expectantly. I don't know what she wants,  so I just guess-  I reach out and I stroke her; her silky ears, her soft, warm head, her neck fur which, like the rest of her curls has been cropped off in an attempt to give her some comfort in the coming heat, down to her chest, where I slip my fingers under the straps of her harness and scritch her there. She sighs, her chocolate eyes sinking closed slightly. I talk to her softly,  tell her how much of a good girl she is,  and how much I love her.
I realize that I tell her that a lot.

I wonder, and not for the first time, whether it's weird how much I care about this being who I can't even communicate with. I don't know what she wants, what her favorite way to be scritched is (if she has that one place that will turn her into a puddle, I haven't found it), or what she really likes to play with (the search for the ultimate toy is ongoing).

I'm not sure what her facial expressions mean,  or how often her tail should wag. I don't even know how much to feed her since she's 10 pounds bigger than breed standard (not fat, but genuinely larger built).

Mostly daunting, though, is the question of whether or not this beautiful girl is happy.

It may seem strange to some people, how much I care about this mystery being in my life. But the truth is, as much as I don't know, sometimes she's the thing that makes the most sense.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sharing the Ideas/ Recommendation Posts! (Subtitle: Ash v. Blogger)

Popping in right now just to share a cool blog I just stumbled into. It's a woman's personal blog about her struggle with chronic illness. Her name is Erica, and her blog is called Determined to Heal. After even a short time on her site, I can say that Erica's take on the world is very down to earth, hearty and real, and her blog is worth a look, because the more people who speak up, the bigger a community can get.

In the future I hope to be sharing a lot more sites and material with you; I wanted a spiffy sidebar thingy-mabob (technical term) to the right, over yonder ------------->, but all it does is provide you with a list of links and the custom 'titles'... While I wistfully dream of a thingy-mabob that suits my purposes in a more intriguing, artistic way instead of just providing a simple link, for now, I'm dealing with what I've got, so Erica's blog is featured on that list (the first link), as 'Determined to Heal PSH Blog' The 'PSH' is the classification of a Personal Story Health blog.

Well, off I hop, for now! Cheers, world!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Side Note: the Lucy I love!

As this blog is relatively new and hasn't been very active yet, I've failed to bring up the love of my life, my beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lucy. I've mentioned her in a few of my previous, poor, long-neglected blogs that are still hanging out there in the endless jumble that is the internet, but not here. And I need to mention her, because she's important. Not only because she will be moving in with me in 3 days time- a both exhilarating and scary experience, as I haven't been able to have her for a few years now- or because of the complicated relationship she's had with my health problems, specifically my skin.

While all those reasons are excellent ones to preface her existence now in preparation for later posts that may pop up as we adapt to one another again, Lucy is important to mention because she quite possibly saved my life.

A few years back, I was in possibly the worst mental state I'd ever been in; I was scared, sleepless and anxious and sad- but probably most of all, I felt incredibly and horribly alone. It's the type of alone it takes people with depression to understand; the type of alone that surrounds you, even when you're in a crowded room full of people talking. There was so little in my life that I found happiness in; I hated myself, and every day was a struggle because I had nothing to wake up looking forward to. I had no one to love. No one to care for.

I started musing about dogs- I took tests like 'Which dog is the best dog for you?' and looked long and hard at characteristics of different types. It was only a dream; but the more I looked, the more that dream grew.

To make a long story short, my search led me to the Cavalier, which led me to a beautiful, modest little home of a man, his sweet, quiet wife and their toddler son a few hours from where I live. And they had Cavaliers. And one of those Cavaliers, a beautiful girl named Angel, was pregnant. After meeting her, and the sire of her litter, (both of whom were exceedingly sweet, wonderful dogs) we decided to come back once the pups were born, a few weeks later, to see them ourselves.

That day, we all sat in deck chairs on their lush front lawn in the early summer afternoon, and Lewis brought out the puppies in a large basket filled with fluffy towels. I'd seen puppies and kittens before- newborns- but these puppies captivated me. One by one, they were passed to me. I held each one, their tiny little bodies cradled close to me so they could feel my heartbeat and know that they were safe (their eyes hadn't yet opened).

Some people say that at a few weeks old, it's impossible for a baby- let alone a non-human baby- to have an distinguishing personality traits. These people, to me, will always be wrong. Because I held each of those babies. Some squirmed, some were so asleep they were puddles. But then I was handed this one puppy- this little red and white girl, with freckles on her muzzle. And as I held her, she fell asleep, like most of her siblings.

But then she started to dream. I stared down at this little life, so new that she hadn't even seen the world, and she was already dreaming. It was amazing to me.

And just like that, I knew she was it. She was my puppy, and when she was ready, she was coming home with me. I also knew that her presence would change things. (To be continued)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

'Round and 'Round..

Over the years, it's occurred to me more than once that a lot of health problems- mental as well as physical- carry the risk of the person with that problem falling into a vicious cycle.

This is, in my opinion, especially true of people with depression.

In addition to my eczema, I suffer from a plethora of health problems (which I'll go into some other time). Some are scary, some are painful, and all are inconvenient. However, while eczema wins the prize for biggest obstacle from me living the type of life I want, depression isn't that far behind.

In a perfect world, in my perfectly organized life, I'd have this down by now: taking a short shower to start my morning and a rinse every night before bed, changing my sheets every other day, moisturizing constantly, and keeping my environment under control- complete with a well placed humidifier, an air sanitizer, no dust, no clutter to attract it, no trash, everything meticulously organized and stored properly.

My reality, however, is very different. Frankly, my place is a mess. I have clutter everywhere- a mixture of clothes, shoes, textbooks, notebooks, art supplies, dishes, medications, lotions, and paper trash dominates every surface- except, of course, my closet, which is empty. My bathroom is in a similar state- except the clutter in my bathroom is- well, stuff that you normally keep in a bathroom, so I suppose that's a minuscule plus.

I own one and a half sets of sheets, no air sanitizer, and my humidifier has a filter that apparently needs to be washed or changed- I'm not sure which, and I have NO idea how to do it in any case.

And the worst part of all of it is, there is dust everywhere. It coats everything, and is impossible to escape from. And what's the cause of this dust, you ask?

Here's a fun fact, for those of you that don't know it. A primary component of dust is dead skin cells.
Among the symptoms of my eczema is that I'm always 'shedding'- my skin cracks, peels and flakes, and I lose a ridiculous amount of skin compared to the amount a person with normal, functional skin would lose in the same amount of time.

Dust is my number one allergen.
And the principle cause or origin of all the dust in my environment right now, is me.

Talk about one of life's cruel jokes, right?.

Like I said, eczema, while certainly the most dominant and detrimental of my health problems, isn't my only one. I also have asthma, and intestinal troubles; I'm developing new vision problems, and problems with my thyroid. In addition, I'm diagnosed with depression, ADD, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, all of which are treated and, for the most part, under control.

'The most part'- that's a pretty potentially damning phrase, I agree. What I mean is that, while my bipolar disorder is under control, there's only so much you can do about depression, ADD, and anxiety. But, for the purposes of this post, I want to focus exclusively on depression.

Or, how depression works with my skin.

Having skin that hates you is pretty damn hard at times, to say the least; one of the biggest problems comes from when you can't move without pain or discomfort- when your skin feels tight and raw, or you've gotten a mild skin infection all over and it's hot and itchy and painful to the touch. A lot of the time, a bad breakout makes you feel like your nerves are wrecked. You're hypersensitive- you feel everything (and not positive feelings), about ten times more than you should.

And when your skin hurts or burns or causes you intense discomfort whenever you move, well- moving is the last thing you want to do.

One of the best images I've seen for the 'vicious cycle' of eczema is depicted in a blog I will hopefully be linking to a great deal more, which I am aiming to introduce properly later on today.This is the image from the blog:

I actually made my own little chart, to try to describe the basic aspect of the vicious cycle. I made it on, but it still looks like it's in editor. Why, you ask? Because you have to register in order to save your projects.
Thank goodness for screenshots.

And that's my life in a nutshell- a vicious cycle that goes 'round and 'round.
Well, the battle continues, as ever.
Fingers crossed that I get my wish and am able to come back shortly with a nice surprise!