[brain fart] what’s beauty?

not that i have any actual credentials to be a true connoisseur of beauty,
i sort of developed this idea about beauty through my years on earth.

before TSW, i’ve always been happy about how i look.
on the spectrum of self hate and self love, i think it was pure self love.
i never noticed any perceived flaws, because i was too focused on what i deem as good qualities on myself.

when we are young, we tend to see things in black and white.
it’s either all good, or all bad.
people either hate themselves or love themselves, it’s as though there is no in between.

things changed over the years though.
social media was growing at a time when i was dealing with TSW.
losing what i prized and valued while others show case their best self online did things to my mind.
i started noticing what i don’t have, or the differences between me and my ideals.
whereas in the past, i never had ideals before. i was me, unique, and special.

that was the beginning of the story about me losing my self love, and the quest to find it.

the thing is, i would be fine without self love.
it was the loss of self love, and the presence of self hate that tipped things off the balance.
i guess most been through that phase of “URGH i hate how my skin is right now!” when things got bad.
i felt like a monster, i think i looked like a monster.
i have no love for the person i see in the mirror, at all.
what’s that thing staring back at me?

i think that was how my self esteem began to tank.
which made it really hard for me to function like i did because i was so confident before that.
navigating through relationships was like swimming in a brand new sea.
except, the sea is pretty much the same, it’s just that now, i’m without my proper protective swimming gears,
so my fear of being attacked or getting hurt grew, so much so that they took over my decision control.

quoting rupaul, if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?
it made so much sense, because of something called projection.
how i interpret my actions towards myself is also how i interpret other’s actions towards me.
what happens when i see nothing but hate through my eyes?
that others don’t actually love me, because even i don’t like myself!
and why would i want to love another when all i think i’ll receive is pain?

learning to love myself was a journey in itself.
it took months, and months, and months.
imagine me swimming in the sea, finally getting more accustomed to it,
no longer thinking that everything is out there to kill me,
a fucking iceberg appeared out of no where and i swam right into it, kinda like what titanic did.
for a while, fear and panic took over again, until i talked my mind out of it as i grew more confident.
“hey, that didn’t actually kill me yea? and now i’m better at spotting ice bergs from afar, i can better avoid them!”.

the cycle repeats itself.
first it was iceberg, then it was airplanes diving from the sky.. it seem to get progressively worse.
but that’s not the actual case.
the usual stuff still pops up, like a drift wood, plastic trash, potentially deadly bacteria brewing in the ocean, but over time,
i’ve learnt that can’t bring me down, so they go pass my danger radar.
each day, my self esteem grows a little thanks to my constant effort to practice compassion

you know, being kind to others is ultimately an act of kindness towards ourselves.
none of that “pay kindness forward until it pays you back” BS,
but simply, projection.
if i do not harbour any mean motive towards someone else, i wouldn’t think others are harbouring the same bad motive towards me when a similar action is done onto me.

our biggest enemy is indeed our self.

in my practice of self compassion and cultivating kindness for others,
i came across this cute little birdy called rhea.
she has the beak and feather disease which caused her to be featherless.

Happy happy birdie; thanks @petsonq for a wonderful day!! #PetsOnQteam

A post shared by Rhea The Naked Birdie & Lucky (@rhea_thenakedbirdie) on

i remember how i felt when i first saw her – a sense of familiarity, because she’s just like me, having an issue that affects her appearance.
except, she is much cuter even though she’s featherless.

the thoughts that went through my mind was what helped me chase away self hate.
“even though she looks different, but she is still loved. heck, i still find her cute and adorable! wait a minute…. if that’s the case.. if something broken can still be loved and adored by others, does that mean i can be loved too?”

and that question lifted off that smoky haze that’s been clouding my mind for a while.
in loving a broken bird, i was able to learn how to love and appreciate myself and my perceived flaws.
and with that self love, i now deem myself worthy of someone else’s love.
what that means is, my insecurities aren’t as rampant as before, the voices in my head no longer tell me the worse case scenario of getting my heart broken when things didn’t go according to my expectations.
and if they do, which is much rarer than before, i am able to tell it to fuck off, because i can tell fact from fiction.

can’t always trust my mind sometimes!

rhea looked cute before when she still had all her feathers, but being naked doesn’t make her any less cute!

being judgemental/critical kinda suck,
because when i’m not judging others, i’m busy judging myself.
but love, kindness, and compassion is the antidote to that.

just a little brain fart that’s been sitting around my brain far too long.

let it go

last week i was going through yet another cycle.
no big deal, just some minor rashes on my arms and legs living the time of their life..
they’re dying down now, and will not be missed.

i didn’t feel too bothered by that.
after going through the manic phase of trying whatever i can do change things,
only to find out things are actually out of my control,
i’ve learnt to let it go.

trying to influence things out of my control is a futile effort.
initially it made me feel empowered, like.. I CAN DO THIS! I CAN CHANGE THINGS AROUND!
well, looking back, it’s a false sense of empowerment.
when i realize nothing changed because of what i did, i felt twice as bad.

is it worth it?
i don’t think so.
that’s why learning to let go is so important.

letting go is freeing.
giving up control rids you of responsibility.
religious people say “you already tried your best, now leave the rest to god”.
if you don’t believe in a god, then “things are as they are” works too.

letting go isn’t the same as giving up, even though the action one take is often similar.
the difference is in the motivation.
you give up because you feel hopeless, frustrated, angry even.
but you let go when you’ve come to terms with reality – the inability for us to have complete control over every single aspect of our lives.
you’re at peace, perhaps even happy, to finally let things be the way they are.

the need for control in itself isn’t bad.
you need a certain degree of authority/autonomy to get things done.
yet, we often forget that our range of control is very limited, as compared to the vastness of this world.

people often say the only thing we can control in life is how we respond to it.
even then, we do not have complete control of ourselves, let alone to control others/events.
we can barely control our own emotions, which has a weather schedule just like nature.
sometimes it just happens.

i think i’ve given up almost all control over my health,
and by that i mean i no longer try to force my health to align with my ideal within a stipulated time frame set by yours truly.
we can’t have it all.

by seeing my TCM doctor, i put my health in his hands and let him be the captain.
i stopped reading literature trying to figure out what’s wrong with me, or what i can do.
i continued my new plant based diet, but no longer using it to directly affect my skin. i’m continuing on because this diet makes me feel happier as i have peace of mind that i’m not eating unhealthy animals.
i continued taking strolls as a light form of exercise, but not because it benefits my heart and lungs. i just enjoy the night breeze, and the blurry night lights (as i don’t wear my glasses).

letting go allowed me to be peaceful.
and peace of mind, as i’ve come to realize after battling TSW for 6 years, might just be the most important factor in healing.
anger is my mom telling me to do the chores, i do them out of love and respect, but she’s just going to see it as me following her orders.
peace and love on the other hand, it’s me offering to do the chores for my mom because i know she’s tired from work, and she knows i’m doing it because i love her.
both elicit the same result, but one leaves me grumpy and feeling unvalued, and one leaves me feeling like a god damn saint.

my favourite phrase now when a new rash pops up is
“we’ll see what happens!”.

it might be just me, but i feel like my skin has been calming down even more after i consciously remind myself that i’m actually ok with the way things are.
that encompasses a lot more than what it seems – it means i love myself, i love my broken skin, i love my healing body, i accept it for what it is right now, even though it’s not where i’d like to be.

i definitely don’t feel this way when my skin was way worse.
but now that it’s not as bad, it’s easier to love it.
and maybe that’s why i feel like things have been getting even better.
that self love might have helped ๐Ÿ™‚

letting go is a process and not an over night thing,
especially when it’s intangible stuff we’re talking about.
it isn’t as easy as taking out physical trash – out of sight, out of mind.

something to think about.

[brain fart] happy to smile

there are days when i find it easy to laugh,
and days that i just can’t find my laughter even when i saw something funny.

as of the past few weeks, i noticed that whenever my lips are going through a cycle,
by that i mean drying out, tightening of the skin, shedding, and cracking open,
whenever the ability to smile is limited,
i feel worse.

even looking at cute animal photos and videos doesn’t ellicit so much as a giggle.
what’s wrong with me!?

then i remember this little fact that said the act of smiling can make you feel happy.
surprising isn’t it?
usually, we smile when we feel happy,
but the opposite is true too!
we can influence our emotions with our physical behaviour.

unfortunately, the area around my lips happened to be areas i used plenty of steroids on.
elomet in particular.
i think it’ll be several more cycles before it will get back to normal.

till then, i’ll try to savour every moment when i can actually smile.
i can get away with 1 or 2 days of flexible skin near my lips that allows me to smile.
i’ll just have to smile harder during those days to stock up on my happiness level i suppose?

if it works that way, that is.

 

[brain fart] how to not feel depressed

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i think i’ve received this question before, but i haven’t gotten a chance to really address it properly in a blog entry.

how do i stay strong despite all the bad times i have to go through?

to answer the question simply,
i’d suggest you pen down the list of positive changes you’ve observed in yourself ever since you quit steroids.
it can be simple stuff like..

i appreciate my family so much more than before,
i no longer take things i have for granted,
i am thankful all the fucking time such that i can tear up any time any where,
i am more empathetic than i ever was,
i’m not that snobbish bitch anymore,
i lead a healthier lifestyle now that i know what to do.. etc.

once you complete the list, you might be able to resonate with what i’m about to write. Continue reading

[brain fart] being kind and happy


it’s more important than you might think.

i’m in one of those pensive moods lately, it’s sort of the side effect of feeling moody.
not every thought gets to be written down and shared with people,
so this thought came at the right time because if it hit me a week ago, i’d be “meh!” and let it slide into the depths of my mind.
thankfully, i’m feeling a bit more motivated to get things done this few days,
so here goes.

as i was surfing the internet on my laptop,
i randomly look down at my hands that are laid out on the keyboard.
i think it’s a subconscious habit to always take a look at my hands and scrutinize my skin (which explains why i always felt bad the past few months because my hands looked kinda bad),
and it only surfaced to my awareness just now because i noticed how beautiful my skin looked.
for once, i’m not upset after looking down! i didn’t know i can NOT feel upset until just now!
it’s not perfect yet, but they look so much better than before.
lesser wounds, lesser redness, skin isn’t as elephant-y.
it actually feels smooth and soft again (i did use a moisturizer, as i felt it’s the right time to use it now).

what i did next made me think i’m borderline crazy.

i looked at my left hand while caressing it with my right hand as though it’s a little puppy in need of love.

“you look so good! you’re doing so well! keep up the good work!”

then i looked at my right hand.

“you’ve done an amazing job healing! keep up the good work!”

as i touched it with my left, i looked at it lovingly before holding it near my lips and giving it a kiss.
i know, i know. it sounds dramatic as hell, but i really did that! haha!

and then i smiled to myself and thought “how wonderful and amazing is my body? you’re doing such a good job healing from the damage i’ve dealt, yet i have been undermining your efforts by thinking you’re not healing fast enough.”

i wrapped my palms around my cheeks (they’re currently going through another cycle), gave it a light pat of affirmation, closed my eyes, and took in a deep breath.

and i smiled again.

being kind to myself elicits a surge of good feeling, and it puts my mind in the right place that aids healing.
it takes away stress and channel more positivity into a difficult time like this.

surely, you’ve felt unappreciated before in your life,
that didn’t feel good, right?
if my body had feelings, it probably felt like shit because i neglected the fact that it’s working over time to recover.

just because i’m not seeing progress on the surface doesn’t mean it isn’t progressing!
“no observable changes” is not the same as “no changes”.
even though other parts of my body might look worse, focusing on what’s getting better worked really well for me.

you really have to experience yourself, it’s cathartic somewhat.
it might be easier to imagine your body and skin as something adorable.
in my case i really felt like i was speaking to a cute little puppy.

love yourself, and feel better.

xoxo
juliana

p.s. photo of my hand over the month


click to enlarge to see the details, you can zoom all the way in!

[brain fart] when my guts rule my feelings

would it be too far fetched to say that our guts can impact our feelings and emotions?
it might sound crazy at first, but the more i read into it, the more the two appears to be related.
it’s called the gut-brain-axis.

the first time i came across this idea, i was reading GRAIN BRAIN by david perlmutter.
by now i’ve forgotten the proposed scientific mechanism relating the gut to the brain,
but the general idea stuck with me – the idea that eating wrong foods for you can play some nasty tricks on your mind.

===============================================

i remember the first time i tried going on a low carb diet (late 2013?), i had a lot more anxiety issues than before.
i’ve never really felt that way before, so i didn’t know it was anxiety at that time.
they hit me like a bat to my head, bringing my positive outlook down to the ground with it.
i’m normally a positive person who thinks the future is filled with opportunities,
but those dark and bleak moments filled with uncertainty are coming at me increasingly over the months i continued on the diet.

i don’t know what an actual panic attack is like,
but there was once i suddenly feel like my future is doomed (for no apparent reason),
that everything i’m doing right now is meaningless,
my heart rate rose, i’m restless, uncomfortable with my surrounding (which was perfectly fine just minutes ago).
i tried my breathing exercise but it didn’t seem to work, so i just tried to let it pass.
thank god it did.
it was a strange experience, because i’ve never felt anything like that before.
is that how it’ll feel like if dementors kissed me?

i never had another episode of whatever it was again.

==============================================

there was also another time when i was talking to my then bf,
he was talking about how the future might turn out to be – the death of the lower income group because living will become so expensive in the future.
the normal me wouldn’t feel much for that sentence because being the positive person that i am, i know there will surely be ways for them to survive. if there’s a will, there’s a way.
but the overly worried me was so affected by what he said.. i pictured myself drowning in the sea because i’m not able to afford a boat.
what the hell!? that wouldn’t come to my mind normally at all!
i felt so upset i told him i don’t feel like talking and ended the call, also something i never did because..
i have always enjoyed and wanted to speak with him then.

i lived through many tiny episodes of self doubt and uncertainty about the future during that period of time.
at that time, i thought it’s just mood swings, PMS, and you know.. everyone has a healthy level of self doubt right?
sometimes i thought i was moody because i didn’t feel like my skin is doing well.

===============================================

lately, i realized that the relationship don’t always hold true.
bad skin don’t always result in negativity.
even though my skin was shitty the past month, i never had those fears about the future.
i was upset, but not depressed.
and i don’t self doubt any more than usual.
in fact, my outlook is more positive than ever.

i didn’t feel like there’s a black hole sucking away all my positive energy away, whereas in the past, there was no way of escaping a negative thought no matter how hard i try to think positively.

what’s more interesting is, i think i can predict what’s going to happen to my skin based on the frequency of my anxiety attacks.
in september 2015, my skin was pretty good. probably the best it has been in the entire year.
but in the same month, i started having those attacks a lot more frequently,
almost once every week.
i passed it off as PMS at the very beginning, but things don’t add up.
i can’t be PMS-ing for the entire month, can i?

by now, the nature of my anxiety attacks have changed.
it’s no longer me fearing about the uncertainty of my future, but rather..
self doubt and negative thoughts taken to the next level.
like every trigger will just bring up the worst possible scenario in my mind.
i know there’s a devil living in the empty spaces in my reality, and it has upped its game by 10 folds.

for example, if the guy you like doesn’t respond to your text for the entire night,
instead of thinking that “oh he’s just busy” and getting on with whatever i’m doing, i automatically think “he’s with another girl right now” and i proceed on to feeling like shit and wallow in a downward spiral of bad feelings.
the thing is, I’M NOT EVEN THAT KIND OF GIRL WHO WORRIES ABOUT THIS KIND OF SHIT NORMALLY.
i was NEVER insecure or needy like that.

i know it’s not about my self confidence either, because my skin was fine at that time,
which guarantees a healthy level of self confidence for me.

no matter how i try to rationalize my thoughts, i just can’t figure out why my mind had that tendency to go to the worst possible explanation and making myself miserable in the process.

i’ve tried meditation, which helped me by being more conscious of my feelings,
but it didn’t stop them from coming.
acknowledging my feelings did help me come to terms with it so it can pass by faster though.

anyway, my mental wellness wasn’t that great in september and october.
i catch myself being controlled by the devil in my mind way too many times, and there was nothing i can do despite being a positive and confident person.
i know something was wrong with me because it’s a deviation from the norm.

and then my skin took a bad turn after october.
i guess the anxiety issue is just one of the symptoms of a compromised gut, just like how my skin issue is a symptom of a bigger issue.
i don’t remember much about how my gut health was like back then, but i know i was very gassy, which isn’t a sign of a healthy gut.
the relationship here is this: the gut will affect the mood and auto immune system.
so if my mood wasn’t normal, my gut probably isn’t, and of course my immune system is out of whack too.

==============================================

i want to improve my gut health,
on top of eating more vegetables (which i have been skimping on lately) and lesser meat (i feel like i don’t digest them that well) so that i can feed the bacteria in my gut,
i also began drinking ACV and taking probiotics again.
i’ve done ACV and probiotics before, but i never felt any significant changes back then to be honest.
maybe i wasn’t looking at the right place to observe the appropriate signs.

this time round (i’ve only been on the probiotics for a week),
i do feel a difference in terms of the amount of gas, and the quality of it.
TMI: it doesn’t smell like undigested food.

i’ll try to stick to it for as long as i need to because i’m not just doing it for my skin health.
i’m doing it for my mind too.
a healthy gut means lesser inflammation and auto immune problems too, so i really have nothing to lose.

looking back, there were experiences that stood out to me as evidence that the gut-brain-axis really do exist,
but reflecting on my past after i’ve read about such a relationship means there may be a case of confirmation bias.
whatever it is, i’m just sharing my personal experience with anyone who might identify with them.

did you notice yourself feeling more anxious/negative/depressed?
if you experience those feelings even when your skin appears to be fine, it could be your gut.

xoxo
juliana

[brain fart] lifting my own mood

IMG_6787
this is what i keep telling myself.

finally got around to sit down, settle my thoughts and feelings, and to write something down after my they condensed into words.

i just got back from HONG KONG after spending almost a month there,
i gotta say i’d be a lot happier if my skin was more stable,
but life says no and i just have to deal with it.

there were many times when i just felt like holing up at home, resting because not only is my skin unstable,
i am constantly feeling tired even after getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
and i don’t know what’s wrong with me, but i’m no longer impervious to the slightly cooler weather in hong kong.
i used to find 18 degrees C to be really comfortable, but now i feel cold in temperatures like 22C.
my hands turned ice cold that day when the temperature hit 16.
what the f, i used to find hong kong’s pre-winter weather to be extremely comfortable!

back to my monologue,
despite feeling lethargic and not as hyped up as i wished i were,i didn’t allow myself to waste too much time while on my holiday,
after all i was supposed to enjoy my trip, right?

so i’ve been reading a book lately (the paradox of choice), it’s about the detrimental effects of having too many choices in life.
it brought in a lot of behavioral economics/psychology theories,
one that stood out to me was about how humans usually tend to think of situations as “it could have been better”, which resulted in plenty of dissatisfaction and inability to feel happy about what they already have.
i caught myself doing that, so many times!

“if only my skin was better”
“my skin was so good just 2 months ago, why is it looking worse right now?”

why not look at it from the other direction?

“it could have been worse”
“my skin could be oozing right now but i’m not!”
“wow, luckily my skin didn’t crack like it used to!”

and suddenly the tables are turned and i don’t feel that hopeless anymore.

this is for anyone who needs a little push right now ๐Ÿ™‚

i was chatting with one of my friends (hello brendan) just yesterday,
he was telling me about how most of the other TSW “vetarans” stopped updating their blogs.
i wish – and i wholeheartedly do – it’s because they’re fully healed and have been too occupied with their new found lives to keep coming back to update about their normal lives!

as for me, as i’m still trying to figure out my own eczema,
i think i’ll be here for a little longer.
and even after i heal, you’ll still hear from me.
that’s a promise ๐Ÿ™‚

and oh, i forgot one thought that i had..

“i’m so glad i can still smile right now without cracking my lip area!”.
that kept me smiling whenever i can, because i know it’s a gift that i can easily take it for granted if not for TSW.

rest well and heal well everyone!

p.s. here’s a photo of me at stanley in hong kong ๐Ÿ˜€
skin was calmer that day and i’m very happy!

IMG_7416

xoxo
juliana