Recently I have on several occasions caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Not for my normal reason of thinking I have once again gained weight, but because of my complexion. It may have been like this for a long time and I just haven’t noticed, but there is no doubt that it has changed. My long searched for that perfectly pale appearance that I have admired for years has appeared by itself. From childhood on I have had a great admiration for the very few redheads that I have met who possess this look and didn’t have freckles. Their skin always looked almost like fine porcelain with a forgivable light flush over the cheeks, but no other blemish to be seen. I have spent more than half of my life trying to avoid the sunshine and hiding what colour I had with the best concealing make-ups that I could buy. I wasn’t trying to replicate the overdone look of a goth. It wasn’t the undead that inspired, more the look of an a fine 18th-century lady, but that bit paler and less powdery. I was never totally happy with what I managed as a pinkish colour always seemed to be there. Out of nowhere and without any intervention from me, it has now suddenly appeared. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough that even light makeup would smooth out the final touches of colour.
Unlike most women, I look in a mirror just once a day, to say that I look is probably an exaggeration. I stand in front of it as I cleanse my face before replenishing my daily moisturiser, my one concession to normality. With no make-up, there is no reason to really look, just a glance to assist with not getting the cream actually in my eyes, rather than around and on. All my adult life I have had a rather annoying red area of skin, front and centre of my Décolletage. It didn’t seem to matter how much I kept it covered or stayed sun free, it always looked as though I had had a low-necklined top on and had just come in from walking in the sun. Yet just like my face on first look it too was white and without the red tinge, I was also very aware of veins I have no previous memory of being there clearly on display. The more I looked the more I began to notice that it isn’t just the colour that has changed. The skin on my face, neck and chest all had a look that I can only describe as tissue paper. My eyes have become deep set and black, so black that they almost look as though they are bruised, especially on either side of my nose as it reaches up almost to the bridge. If it wasn’t that I am not badly wrinkled, I would say that I have prematurely aged. I have only ever seen skin with this look on the elderly but not once on smooth skin. It appears that my health is no longer as invisible as it once was. After years of knowing that the way I walked or the fact that I was sat in a wheelchair were the only true clear giveaway to the casual observer. No matter what I read or others said, I didn’t believe it would be invisible forever. Not once thought had I read someone describing any of my conditions as invisible until you reach year whatever, but I guess eventually even the invisible takes its toll on our bodies. Even on my best days, there is no hiding it and no doubt.
I have always believed that if you accept your health and work with it, that you lessen some of the adverse effects of it. I have come across many people who have lived with long term illness and noticed what I believed to be a side effect. I have seen it especially in those who have conditions that brought chronic pain with them. Nearly all had larger numbers of wrinkles and a look of ageing that seemed exaggerated for their age. To me, it makes total sense that if you spend your entire life fighting and being stressed by pain and symptoms that you were determined to control, there had to be some effect on everything from the rest of your health to your appearance. Without enough rest and not dealing with the areas of your body that became tense either because of pain or stress, well changes had to appear. We have all seen people who in their youth were perfectly normal in appearance, but as the years have taken their toll, their bodies have become twisted and deformed. Logic alone says that if you hold your body in a certain way to guard against pain, you are doing damage to you joints, spine and even your tendons and muscles. That along with the fact that I know that the longer you let that go unchecked, the more pain you are creating elsewhere. So OK, I am not a doctor, but I don’t think that you need to be to work that one out, so I started to take action.
Before my body got the point where sleep is now something I often find myself fighting against rather than fighting to find, I started using relaxation techniques. I know some people use things like whale song, or classical music to help, I personally couldn’t stand any of them. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s if I wanted to remove stress, I danced. I could dance for hours and I did so to either rave music or extreme metal. There is nothing like moshing for an hour with music as loud as you can bear it. I have to admit that the day that dance started to cause more pain than relief was as devastating as the day that I finally realised that having sex was no longer part of my life. Relaxation had to come from something far more gentle. I knew of a technique that I had been taught when I was in the hospital once. It isn’t something that works straight off for all and there is a large degree of practice to get to the point I am at now. Personally I would suggest silence, but some prefer that music of choice. Either way at first you do need to be lying down, as comfortably as you can, not just in position but temperature as well. Once comfortable first start with your breathing, make sure that you breath steadily and slowly. Everything about you is about to be slowed down and brought to what I would call a peaceful state.
You start at your feet and you work your way up your body, starting with your toe on just one foot, you tell each piece of you to relax. Keep the words in your head smooth and soothing in nature, you are working on putting your entire self at peace. As you talking to your body, imagine a wave of peaceful energy travelling from your head down to the piece you are working on. Once relaxed, then repeat telling it to sleep, before moving to the next part. Keep talking it through in your head, it keeps your concentration, if you don’t want to go to sleep, just go to the relax point and move on. I know that some find tapping their fingers rhythmically on their chest helps to keep your mind fixed on what you are doing. I don’t, in fact, I find it distracting. At first it might take you right up to the top of your head before you are asleep or feeling rested, but the more you practise, the less of you will require to be talking to yourself. I have been doing this for about 14 years and I no longer talk to myself at all. All I have to do is make sure those shoulders are down as I explained yesterday and to send those waves of peace down through my body until I drift off. I use a similar process during the day whenever I feel tension or stress building. It is also the process that I use whenever I find that I am letting my posture slip. I can’t make the intense pain that I feel go away, but there is a fact that I have found. Using this process does reduce the impact of severe long-term pain. By constantly correcting my posture and at the same time working on keeping myself relaxed, as hard as it can be at times, it changes things. I explained yesterday how one pain triggers another, if I have been sending what I call occasional reminders throughout the day, when bad pain appears, by working on controlling the rest of my body, that first bad pain doesn’t seem to grow so fast or so intensely.
Like any system, trick or theory, it doesn’t always work as well as I would like, but that could be because I want to be pain-free. Just like everything else in life it isn’t alway convenient to use either. I often don’t follow my own rules. For example if I needed it right now, I would probably half use it, by fixing my posture, but leaving the rest until this was finished. What I do know is that I still don’t have the hunch I feared when I found myself with constant pain in my stomach and chest. A few months ago when I was caught in almost constant pain, I found myself for a short while giving up on it. Which was stupid. I remember writing a post about how I had fallen into crumpling to on side. It was causing pain in my neck and shoulder, making everything worse. By working on using my core muscles to support my body rather than going with the natural desire to crumpled, my muscle although much weaker than once are now able to hold me upright again. We are all caught out constantly by spasms that appear out of the blue. Even for them it can help, remembering both postures and breathing, gently massage the area. Whether it is the processes or the distraction, to be honest, I don’t care, it helps to make my life more bearable and, therefore, gets my vote.
Oddly, being ill takes work. It also takes trying anything that comes your way as a possible answer to your problems. I know there are some great side effects from constantly working on my physical stresses and tensions. I as a person have become far more laid back about almost everything. I also believe that those mental changes have impacted on my health as majorly as the physical ones. Being relaxed changes everything.
Please read my blog from 2 years ago – 21/08/2013 – Trying to answer that question
It is amazing just how fast MS can bring you down to a point where you feel like giving into it and then just a couple of days later, you are once again able to cope with all of it again. On Monday I could have with easy just……