VALENTINE'S DAY HAS a tendency to make a lot of us crazy. For those of us who are single, we try to ignore the day as best we can whilst watching a stream of 'I love you' quotes, memes and photos of bouquets of flowers stream in via social media. For those in relationships, it can be tough too, so many expectations to live up to and nothing is ever really perfect. It can have you questioning the one you're with. We should probably just love each other everyday and leave it at that. But I try not to should too much on myself, or anyone else for that matter.
Something I learned from going to the edge of death and coming back from the brink was that I didn't love myself. Like, at all. Conceptually I could understand why others loved me, and that I had a lot of friends. I could objectively see that I was pretty, and dare I say, on occasion, a smokeshow. But I would say awful, disgusting things to myself on a daily basis. I didn't love my body, I didn't think I was charming as I purported to be, I could always find a flaw if given a compliment and I never cut myself a break. I think a lot of us do this and it's extremely detrimental. Women, especially, are held up to this unrealistic standard of beauty. We are bombarded with what we're supposed to look like and who we are supposed to be from such a young age, it's ingrained in us. I hid all of this really well (I think?!): I am not by any means a Debbie Downer. Quite the contrary, I've been told I'm a good time gyaldem, and I'm here to tell you, I am. But my confidence was shot to shit and I was pretending to be confident and into myself and all the other things you're supposed to be. Because I didn't believe it, not because it wasn't true.
But it didn't matter what the world thought of me: this is more about what goes on in one's head and how unhealthy it can be and how deep those grooves can go. There (hopefully) are a lot of positive things to come out of my near death experience and life-saving liver transplant. A lot of them remain to be seen. The most immediate one was realising how MUCH people love me and how I was doing myself a disservice by not loving myself. It is such wasted breath and your energy can be directed in so many other productive ways. Negativity and negative thinking can be contagious, and we need to work on ourselves in order to exist happily out in the world. That is really the only person you're responsible for: you. Unless you have young children, in which case, good luck to you and I wish you all the best and rainbows and well-behaved angels.
Now I'm almost on the other side of it, I have massive stretch marks all over my body because I blew up to 200 pounds after transplant, whale style. I have a saggy ass that drops straight down: like a plank of wood. My back just goes straight into my legs (it's cute). I have a huge scar in the middle of my abdomen. I have countless scars from countless blood draws and drains and catheters. I've lost a lot of my hair because of the steroids I'm on, and from god only knows what else: anesthesia, painkillers, 15 different types of medication. I've also grown a lot of hair in unwanted places because of the same drugs. I lost a LOT of weight after I deflated, because I couldn't eat for 6 months, which in a sick way, I liked at first. But I know I have to gain a bit more to be healthy, and I'm trying.
I am not going to sit here and pretend that I don't want those stretch marks to go away, or that I hope that my Mercedes Benz scar won't fade and become less red with time, taking up less real estate around my middle, even though it already looks pretty good. I'm not about to tell you I have SO MANY SCARS AND I LOVE THEM ALL BECAUSE THEY MAKE ME WHO I AM! They do make me who I am, and I honour that, and they remind me of how strong I am, but I don't want to look at them forever. Or that I won't RUN to the electrolysis place as soon as I'm allowed to get it done (another restriction because of steroids. Fuck you steroids, you're really cramping my style). I am only human, after all, and a woman, and a woman who likes to look good. What woman doesn't? Or man for that matter. But I am more gentle with myself, and I know I'm beautiful, smart and capable of anything I set my mind to (except for singing, coordinated dance routines or any team sport). And I know that the most important relationship I have is with myself, because if I can't love myself and if I can't say kind things to myself then who the fuck else will? And above all, I am patient. Because I know it will all come with time, and care. Or it won't and that's ok too. But self-love and care is all I can do in the meantime and slowly try to make myself feel like a woman again.
So herewith, is a small self-care routine I suggest that I've been doing ever since my skin stopped feeling like it was on total fire (which it was for the first few months, no idea why). DRYBRUSHING!
Number 1. Get yourself one of these babies. I used to do it almost everyday before I got sick. I like the ones with the long handles for getting to the middle of your back. It improves blood circulation and apparently, helps assist in lymphatic drainage and gives a jolt to your nervous system (invigoration station). Natural beauty mavens claim it also gets rid of unwanted cellulite, but the jury is still out on this one. I used to obsess over wellness articles about this and think WOW there are SO many benefits! I want that! But I never really bothered to understand exactly how it worked or IF it worked. Some of the claims are true, some are exaggerated: here is a good explanation of the benefits from the trusted Cleveland Clinic. This is also an incredible way to exfoliate and slough dead skin off you. My skin has been so dry since transplant, and I am taking any help I can get. Your skin is also the largest organ on your body, so it's good to give it some attention.
Number 2. Get naked! Or strip down to your underwear. It's Valentine's Day after all! Why NOT be naked. You should really try to get naked at least once a day if possible.
Number 3. In a circular motion, scrub up towards your heart. Start at your feet, moving in broad strokes up to your legs and arms to your chest. Do the back of your legs up to your ass and where you can get to on your back. Repeat. I do it for about 2-3 minutes.
Number 4. I then put magnesium oil on for about 20 minutes before getting into the shower. WARNING: the magnesium oil is going to sting like a motherfucker for about 10-15 mins. It's fine, it just means it's doing its job. Don't let it scare you or deter you from doing it again. If you can only deal with it for a few minutes the first time, that's cool. Most of us are deficient in Magnesium (hence the stinging). Transplant recipients seem to be especially deficient, and they've had me taking a prescribed supplement since transplant. They were always checking my mag levels in hospital. In hospital you learn cool medical jargon like 'mag levels'. It's basically like getting a medical degree, except not at all.
Number 5. After getting out the shower I take a good ten to fifteen minutes to moisturize with some home-made moisturizer or this awesome body oil from S.W. Basics and then put Bio-Oil on my scars and stretch marks, something my dear friend Giustina sent me (check out her incredible cooking tips and suggestions for healthy eating here). I got SO many amazing soaps and moisturizers as gifts after I got out of hospital but I have found this one to be really effective. You can get it off Amazon or other online retailers and they most likely sell it at Whole Foods or small health food stores. I still don't have any muscles in my legs so I try to really massage and give them some love, because they certainly need it. I was not ready for this jelly. Beyonce was right, like she usually is.
Number 6. I make a cup of peppermint tea as well as drink a large glass of water (if I'm not feeling lazy, and I'd say there is generally a 50/50 chance that I will be feeling lazy, I squeeze lemon in the water) and try to listen to something calming, like this:
Then I go back to recording Snapchat vids about nothing. It's all about balance, people.
***IF YOU ARE A TRANSPLANT PATIENT REMEMBER TO ALWAYS ASK YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE DOING ANY OF THESE THINGS. I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL, MUCH AS I MAY HAVE WISHED TO BE AS A CHILD (VETERINARIAN, LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, DUH)***