Where do I even start this post?
I’ve wanted to write it for weeks, but there’s been so much to digest I still don’t really know where to start.
But if I don’t start somewhere, I’ll never fully digest everything that’s happened in 2023 for myself, let alone to explain to you where I’ve been and why I’ve published so much less in the last year.
So, let’s dive in…
Everything is temporary
It feels like my life has been in a state of flux for the last 12 months. Everything going up and down so fast I can’t keep up. It’s been exhausting.
But it taught me a valuable lesson: everything is temporary. Good and bad.
Keeping this in mind has really helped when things have been difficult. Because I know that it will pass in the same way that the good did.
It hasn’t quite helped me to enjoy the good times as much yet, but that’s a different skill.
Slowing down is hard (but important)
Slowing down is hard. Especially hard when your brain won’t shut up.
When we went on holiday to Greece back in June (our first holiday since 2018) it took me three days to relax and enjoy being in such a beautiful place.
And the only reason that really happened was because I sat on the jacuzzi, alone, looking out to sea, with a book. There’s something about reading, water, and as few visual stimuli as possible that seems to calm my mind.
That’s really hard to recreate in the modern world, though. And with a small bathroom.
But I did manage it! Six months later.
I went for a bath and lay in the dark, with bath salts, and listened to Into the Uncanny*. And it was the calmest I’d felt since that hour in the jacuzzi back in Greece.
When I do take those moments to slow down, it makes a big difference to how I feel for the rest of the day and even the quality of my sleep. So while it isn’t easy, it is worth it.
That doesn’t mean a week of total disconnection, it could just mean a couple of hours with my phone on Do Not Disturb, reading a book in the bath, or taking Millie for a walk somewhere pretty.
Power dressing is powerful
When I read Big Dress Energy by Shakaila Forbes-Bell* in July, I had no idea how much that book would change my life.
It inspired me to embark on 5 days of power dressing.
And those 5 days made a huge difference to my mood, my confidence, my energy levels, my creativity, my productivity, and probably some other things I haven’t even consciously noticed in myself.
Since July, I’ve kept up the power dressing, only letting it wane when I fell ill. I think that’s acceptable. Who wants to change out of pyjamas when everything hurts and you can’t stop sneezing?
Taking photos for the 5 days (even though they weren’t full outfit photos because we don’t have the space) held me accountable.
Towards the end of the week, I didn’t really want to keep going.
But readers sent me so many positive messages, publicly and privately, that it motivated and inspired me to keep going because I saw how the challenge inspired other people, too.
To make it easier on myself, I planned my outfits ahead so that I wasn’t making the decisions with a tired morning brain.
I could just pick which outfit I wanted to wear based on my mood and the weather that morning.
The more I planned outfits, the easier I found to put them together.
Since the challenge, I’ve been a lot more conscious of what I wear.
I pick out colours, patterns, and fabrics that have an impact on my mood and what I want to channel that day.
For example, red is the colour of energy. Perfect for someone with chronic fatigue syndrome.
It wasn’t until I analysed some of my existing clothes (and looked back at my old hair colour) that I realised just how much the colour red had been a part of my life.
But I didn’t actually have any red clothes to wear beyond pyjamas.
Now I own four red jumpers, a red blazer, and four red lipsticks ????
And it does make a difference.
If I need a pick-me-up, I’ll put on some red lipstick. Then, whenever I walk past my reflection it makes me smile, helping lift my mood.
And it makes sense, because red lipstick is the colour of confidence.
It’s all about the angles
Documenting my power dressing also taught me the importance of angles in photos.
Many of us hate how we look in photos. But when taking a photo, we hold the camera under our chin, point our heads down, and end up giving ourselves huge bags under our eyes and three chins. This happens regardless of someone’s shape or size. That angle wouldn’t flatter a supermodel.
Photography is a skill, same as Photoshop. I’m too lazy to Photoshop my photos, so I focus on taking photos I like instead.
- Good lighting (hard in our house, but I’ve learnt the best spots)
- Holding the camera at eye level
- Facing the camera at an angle, not straight on
- Working out wtf to do with my arms and legs so it looks natural
It’s still a work in progress, but that will only change with practice.
I now regularly take photos of my make-up, hair, or outfits when I really like them, which is helping to refine my posing skills and allows me to refer back to looks I like.
I really recommend Look Good In Photos by Christine Buzan, if you want to work on your posing. She’s super fun and has great, bite-sized tips.
I really do believe anyone can look good in a photo, the problem is the photograph, not the person.
Hair loss is heartbreaking
I haven’t really talked about this publicly, but I’ve been struggling with hair loss for a couple of years now. Not to the point where most people would notice, but if you know what to look for, you know.
Hair loss can really affect our confidence levels, whatever our gender. It can also be caused by sooooo many different things that finding a solution can be a challenge.
I’ve tried many of the recommendations online, but nothing really seemed to work.
For some reason, my hair was still coming through very fine and thin (if at all) even though it never used to. For someone childfree in their early 30s, who eats fairly well, this seemed very strange.
In March, I started taking a calcium supplement. I can’t remember what led me to take them, but as I’m lactose intolerant there’s no chance of me getting the 1200mg of calcium (aka three glasses of milk) a day that’s recommended.
Within a couple of weeks, my hair was growing through thicker. I was also getting less leg pain as my body could absorb water more easily, so I wasn’t as dehydrated. (Calcium is also an electrolyte, so crucial to hydration.)
When I increased the dosage, my hair grew faster and thicker.
And when I started taking omega 3, the results increased even further.
I have a handful of photos I’ve taken to track this, but they’re really not things I’m comfortable sharing, so you’ll just have to take my word on this one.
My hair loss is primarily around my hair line, so my next stop is trying not to tie it up as much (so not pulling on the roots as much). I’m also going to get rid of some of the length again so it’s less in the way and I’m therefore less likely to keep tying it up.
The fact that it’s coming through thicker, though, I’m taking as a good sign. Before, a lot of the regrowth was so thin that you could barely see it.
That being said, the growth has slowed down again recently. Even my eyebrows aren’t growing as fast lately. It seems to have slowed down since winter hit and I got the flu, back in November. Hair growth can be slower in winter, and when my body is healing from some nasty germs, it makes sense for my body to focus its energy elsewhere. (Especially as I didn’t eat so well in November.) I’m going to be kind to myself and focus on being healthier, and continue to monitor what’s happening.
All this leads to acceptance. Acceptance that life is a journey. That healing is a journey. Living with fibro is a journey.
When you think you’re over something, you’ll often find that it’s not the end. There’s another door with a different staircase on the other side.
It’s about finding a way to deal with the obstacles on the next staircase. Being kind to ourselves. Being kind to each other. Having patience (that one is hard).
And above all else, having persivilience – Perseverance and resilience.
(Thanks to Alistair Campbell for coining that one.)
When we persevere, and we’re resilient, it doesn’t matter what life throws our way. We find a way to keep going. To remember that everything is temporary, whether we feel crappy or amazing.
And that’s ok.
Because either way, persivilience gives us the tools to keep going. To find a way to thrive, no matter what.
But wait! There’s more…
This was going to be one long post. Then I realised I had soooo much more to say on the microbiome and mine and Millie’s health issues over the last 12 months.
So if you’re ill all the time, have chronic health issues, or you have a dog with itchy skin, stay tuned for a post in a couple of weeks to find out what helped (and hindered) my health over the last 12 months. And how we made HUGE strides in Millie’s allergies in 2023.
What’s made a difference to your life in 2023? I’d love to know in the comments!