Category Archives: General

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How I Get Through a Bad Day (or Week)

Ciao Bellas/Bellos,
I have been having a rough week… a really rough week. For the past couple months, I have made some lifestyle, diet, and therapeutic changes that have seemed to help significantly. I went from being mostly sedentary to being able to travel to Salt Lake multiple times weekly, visit with friends, spend time outside, etc. Friday, I met a friend at City Creek Outdoor Mall on Friday to say goodbye before she leaves for med school (congrats, Nikki!). We did pretty normal twenty-year-old-girl-at-the-mall things: walked around, looked at shoes, talked about nothing. Without thinking twice, I grabbed a tea sample from Teavana. Whoops– silly Summer, you can’t consume things without knowing EVERY ingredient beforehand. There was pineapple in my “raspberry lime” tea sample, pineapple being one of the many sensitivities I’ve acquired in the past two years (before age nineteen, I had no food allergies). Not only did I have a bad reaction to the pineapple that lasted three full days, but I also had an immune crash from the allergic reaction, causing a symptom flare I’m still recovering from.

Transitioning from fairly functional to completely bedridden and miserable was so disheartening. I was used to being able to get up in the mornings again, and now I was stuck with head-to-toe pain, a pounding head, weak, tingly muscles, and an energy deficit I recognized far too well. I lay there feeling sorry for myself for hours, wishing I could do all the things I couldn’t do, trying to get up and running out of energy within minutes, biting my nails, staring at the wall, waiting for the pain to go away so I could be happy again. I thought about what I could do to change the situation, how to be mentally stronger, how to beat the symptoms. Then, I realized, there was nothing to overcome– no battle to win, nothing to “get through.” There is no way “correctly” handle a really bad day. When you get in a “funk,” the best you can do is nurture yourself, and make the time as valuable and rewarding as possible. Stop trying to control things you have no control over, and stop looking for the reason you might be at fault for the situation. Just be– ride the waves with patience and compassion for yourself.

I did manage to brainstorm a few things that seem to help me more than grouchily staring at the ceiling:

Change your scenery: I get stuck thinking about the parts of my situation I can’t change, and I forget there are still things I can change. Open a window, go for a walk. Get off your laptop. Take a trip to your favorite coffee shop. When my pain is bad and I’m restless, I’ll even walk in circles around the house. It’s amazing how a change of scene can change your attitude and outlook. Take a look at this post to read more about how this helps me.

Make a moment yours:

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Zentangle
Zentangle

“Today is just not my day.” I’m sure you’ve heard that one before. Too often, we have the false idea that bad things happen to us, and we just have to bare them. Stop waiting for good things to find you, and decide to make a good moment in your bad day. Set some time aside, take a few deep breaths, and do something you like that you know you’re good at. For me, those things are usually reading, writing, or zentangling (see image above). Whatever you choose, let yourself really enjoy the time, and know that there are good things to enjoy, even in a bad day. That way, you haven’t “wasted” the day, or spent the time feeling hopeless and incapable. If you’re able to “make a moment yours,” you realized that you still have power and resources, and you used them to pull yourself out of a rut. That thought, alone, is something to feel good about.

Do not catastrophize the situation: When one thing goes wrong, we tend to think everything is going wrong. We spend our days creating protective barriers around sensitive parts of our psyches, and when a “bad day” punctures that barrier, all those sensitive subjects become suddenly vulnerable. Stop, view the situation for what it is, instead of what your fear and anxiety causes you to assume. Don’t let a bad day dig up more pain than it has too. Even though you had a tough time at work, you still have the same abilities you had yesterday, you still have loved ones to go home to, etc. One thing falling apart does not ensure that everything else will, too. In fact, it’s likely the bad situation itself isn’t as hopeless as it seems when you’re in it.

Chocolate, duh:

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In all honesty, I think treats are an important part of self-care. You don’t want to become reliant on food as an emotional habit, but a special snack, or your favorite cup of coffee or tea can really help you calm down and reset a stressed-out body and brain.

Hug a kitty:
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Because Aaaawwww.

That’s all for now, my dears. Now, onward and off to better days!

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Friday Favorites #2

Ello Loves! Welcome to Friday Favorites #2. Here are some things I want to share with you this week.

Lemon Balm as a Natural Soother

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Modern western society is so eager to jump at antianxiety medications or brain-altering drugs, like Valium, to take the edge off after stressful days and make busy lifestyles easier to handle. There are so many side effects that come with those pharmaceuticals that they are much more dangerous than they are helpful. Once you alter the serotonin and dopamine levels in your body, you can upset your circadian rhythms, which will lead to irregular sleep, digestive problems, chronic inflammation, and can even increase the severity of anxiety attacks. Natural soothers can’t always meet all your needs if you have high levels of anxiety, but you still want to lessen your reliance on seratonin reuptake inhibitors and other seratonin/dopamine altering drugs as much as possible. Lemon balm is an herbal remedy that has been extremely effective for me for its calming, anti-anxiety properties. I take it in the evenings as either a tincture or a tea, and it works wonders. You can combine it with chamomile for an even stronger relaxing effect.

More about Lemon Balm: Benefits of Lemon Balm

My Water Bottle from motivationalbottle.com

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You’ve heard it before– you’re dehydrated and don’t realize it. CBS reports that 75 percent of Americans are in a state of chronic dehydration. You should be drinking at least two to three liters of water a day (if you suffer from health problems, probably three). This bottle filled up three times is about three litres. It has measurements printed on the side to help you keep track of how much water you’re drinking throughout the day. Plus, it’s cute!

Heartbeet Kitchen Blog

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Amanda at Heartbeet Kitchen has been diagnosed with SIBO and Leaky Gut symptoms, similar to mine, and she uses healthy food as medicine to help guide her healing. Her blog has awesome recipes for food sensitivities, as well as healthy eaters in general. She has followed the AIP, which is a diet I’ve used to help mitigate my digestive symptoms. Her recipes incorporate a lot of nutrition without sacrificing taste. Check out Heartbeet Kitchen, even if you don’t have food sensitivities. Amanda offers a lot of lifestyle and nutritional wisdom, and her photography is gorgeous!

Zoya Nail Polish
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Ladies, have you ever stopped to consider how many freaky chemicals you’re putting into your bodies with your beauty routines? Nail polish, alone, contains 5 major toxins, and that’s only a small fraction of the cosmetics you’re coming in contact with. Toluene, linked to anemia, formaldehyde, a respiratory irritant and known carcinogen, DBP, which has been shown to cause multiple birth defects, formaldehyde resin, a skin allergen, and camphor, causing headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Zoya nail polish is free of all five of these toxic substances, plus it’s vegan, animal-cruelty-free, and offers awesome colors to keep your nails just as fancy as the gross poisonous ones. The teal color I’m wearing is “Dillon” and the Burgundy hiding under my finger is “Tiegen.”

Roasted Spaghetti Squash
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I have been loving squash lately. My meals have to be nutrient-dense because my body is depleted and my stomach can’t handle very much volume. Replacing any grain side with squash is a way to exchange mostly empty calories with nutrients like niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese. It’s great served as a pasta substitute with bolognese sauce, or on its own topped with olive oil or butter. You can also do spaghetti squash “hash” for breakfast. If you want to supercharge meals with nutrients and lower your empty-calorie carb consumption, any of these meal/snack ideas are great options.

I hope your Friday is better than Tiger Lily Applesauce's. She just CAN'T EVEN today.
I hope your Friday is better than Tiger Lily Applesauce’s. She just CAN’T EVEN today.

One of my best friends, Gabrielle, who is incredibly supportive of me and visits me often

Bird in the Bottom of the Cage– Relating to Healthy Friends When you’re Chronically Ill

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”
― Helen Keller

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A new friend of mine recently told me about how he cares for his pet birds. He said he has to weight the birds frequently to tell whether or not they’ve been ill. I asked why their behavior wouldn’t change before they lost weight, to which he responded “They’re social animals. We’re all social animals. It’s to their benefit to get up on the perch and dance and chirp for us, because they know their quality of life depends on our attention. So they get up on the perch and act healthy until they end up tired and thin, lying on the bottom of the cage.”

My friend told me this story because he thought it related to me and my illness. In chronic illness, social functioning becomes confusing. We’re embarrassed about our limitations, we feel left out a lot of the time. We want to be understood, but we don’t know how.

From an evolutionary perspective, we’re socially attractive based on physical qualities that would benefit a group or “pack,” and many of those qualities, like strength and stamina, are lost when we become sick. We can’t keep up physically, we don’t have as much energy as most people would, and we aren’t always the most witty or dazzling conversationalists. However, we don’t completely lose our abilities to be mentally engaging and uplifting people. Most of the inadequacy is based on our deep-seated biological perspectives of ourselves. Even excluding illness, it’s the same problem with any supposed “inadequacy:” depression, high or low weight, learning diasbility, etc.

This causes us to hide behind a “sick curtain.” We go out with friends only when we feel prepared to hide our inadequacy. We don’t ask for compassion or understanding for fear of rejection. We avoid social interaction altogether because we’re afraid of being seen as weak or undesirable. Eventually, we are the sick and lonely birds at the bottom of the cage.

If we were honest with ourselves, we could remedy the situation long before it became so dire. The owner doesn’t stop loving or caring about the bird when it becomes ill, and he doesn’t find it tedious to occasionally lend some extra attention. Similarly, a sick person doesn’t become entirely repugnant when they become ill. It’s only certain parts of our beings that change, and those changes don’t prevent us from being good friends and having meaningful interactions. Furthermore, if you’re ill, you have just as much of a right to be related to as you have an expectation to find ways to relate. You deserve support and understanding, and you are just as worthy of a social life as those who are healthy.

One of my best friends, Gabrielle, who is incredibly supportive of me and visits me often
One of my best friends, Gabrielle, who is incredibly supportive of me and visits me often

If we keep hiding our supposed inadequacy for fear of rejection, we become completely isolated, which is counterproductive to our original goal of social belonging. We have limited physical abilities, but we don’t have limited love, and we may need friendship, now, more than ever. So say something. Pave the way for yourself. You will be slower, sadder, unable to do the same things as everyone else, but you won’t be alone. The alternative is to live like the bird in the bottom of the cage, performing for the outside until you’re exhausted and alone.

Friday Favorites #1

Happy Friday, lovelies! Those of you reading today are about to be treated to my first Friday Favorites page! These are some things I’ve been loving lately, and wanted to share the love with my readers.

Ginger and Turmeric as Natural Painkillers
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I’ve had chronic pain for years, and my first instinct was to take NSAIDs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen(Tylenol). NSAIDs actually exacerbate inflammation in the body by blocking the production of prostoglandins, which speed the rate of healing. Inflammation is a good thing, it’s what facilitates healing and lowers damage to the body. When you don’t let inflammation run its course and heal your body, you increase damage over time, thereby increasing long-term inflammation and preventing recovery. Turmeric and ginger are both herbs proven effective in reducing pain and long-term inflammation. Circumin, found in turmeric, is also a powerful antioxidant that helps your body detox and fight free radicals that prevent cell function. I take this brand of ginger and this brand of circumin (from turmeric) daily to help reduce pain and lower the oxidative stress in my body.

More about NSAIDS: NSAIDs: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This Blog: Chronic Teenage Tears

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Nancy, author of Chronic Teenage Tears, suffers from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, Gastroparesis, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain & more. Her illness limits her physical abilities, but certainly not her strength of mind. She uses her blog to spread awareness about her conditions and reach out to others who struggle with the social and emotional consequences of illness. She’s incredibly insightful and her blog has a lot to say to those who struggle with disability, as well as fully-functional readers.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five

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I’m sure you’ve had this book recommended to you before, but I’m going to do it again. You all know I love to read, and this is a new favorite. There is some incredible social commentary in this book, and a lot of wake-up calls relating to war and our limited perceptions of it. Even beyond that, there are a lot of very honest portrayals of humanity, including those of religion, time, relationships, etc. The narrative is very readable, but the framing is unlike I’ve seen in any other novel, and the way it all comes together sent chills down my spine.

Bacon-wrapped Apples

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…because bacon. Prepare apples by slicing bacon into thirds, then wrapping. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake on middle rack for 23-25 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes to let bacon crisp. Uncured bacon is best, but I used Costco bacon this time, and it was magical. You’ll thank me later.

The Yoga Collective

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This is an online collection of yoga classes from certified instructors. I purchased a Groupon for a year membership from, and could not be any happier with it. Every yoga class I’ve done is well-paced and well-explained. Since I can’t make it to my yoga studio anymore, I’ve been exercising less and less, and this was a great solution! They offer a free trial for one month, and after that it’s $12/month for a subscription. That’s very reasonable for the quality of classes. There’s something special about the studio experience and community of yogis that at-home yoga can’t replace, but these Yoga Collective classes are the best I’ve found for home practice.

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Namaste!…and a cat

Self-care and Actualization

Do not curse the darkness. Light a candle.
-Ancient Proverb

Things are not going my way, as of late. I have to move home, temporarily- that’s the part I have to remember, temporarily. I withdrew from classes less than a year ago. Six months ago, I was living on my own, planning to go back to school in the spring, planning to go back to my summer job. Now, I’m too sick to get up a lot of mornings. My illness is too unpredictable to have a schedule, to have a “life” like most people have lives.

Temporarily, I am resting, withdrawing from the life I was living before. I am bigger than my circumstances, and stronger than my illness. I am in an undesirable situation, but I am strong enough to get out of it. I will not wait, I will not sulk. I will make small goals, and do everything I need to do to rise above this situation. I spoke before about “climbing small mountains.” Now, it’s more important than ever. People with chronic fatigue find ways to function in the world that make them feel happy and fill, and I know I can do the same. In order to find peace with an illness (or any other personal handicap) you have to reach high levels of understanding and achievement in two areas: self-care, and actualization.

Image Source: 21st Century Tech
Image Source: 21st Century Tech

Self-care involves gaining awareness yourself, your body, and acting based on your needs. We live busy, tense, rushed lives, and forget to honor our bodies and the work they do for us. If you don’t have adequate knowledge of your body and its needs, you aren’t harnessing all of it’s skills, nor are you giving it the resources it needs to fulfill tasks. You’re running a car on oil that needs changing, tires with no tread, and old brake pads. The car will still run, but not as well as it should. You aren’t respecting the machine, and eventually, it will have a bigger problem that needs immediate attention. Our bodies do a lot of work for us, and they need to be acknowledged and tended to. On top of that, our society tells us to hate the amazing vessels that give us the abilities to function. We are always too skinny, too fat, not tan enough, too much arm flab, not enough abs. Screw that noise. You can walk, run, travel to Africa, laugh, breathe- your body gives you all those abilities and you insist that it isn’t good enough because it doesn’t look like Adriana Lima’s? Check yourself.

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Actualization involves knowledge of your personal character, as well as the steps that must be taken in order to keep progressing and achieving. You have to know what you need as an individual, and how you want to act within a society. People need to feel accomplished, worthy, and productive. That doesn’t necessarily mean that every idea of “accomplishment” is logical or correct. We’re confronted with a lot of ideas of success that aren’t for everyone. For example, volunteering for charity may be more rewarding to one person than being the CEO of a company. Again, it’s all related to self-awareness. Know what you need and where you fit in. If you don’t know yet, climb small mountains along the way.

These elements may seem contradictory, when they’re really not. You don’t have to deny yourself care or comfort in order to be productive and successful. In fact, you have to do one to do the other. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the resources to reach actualization goals. If you don’t keep achieving actualization goals, you won’t feel like you deserve self-care (the goal is to know you always deserve self-care, but most people need reminders).

I am here, in this world, just as I deserve to be. I deserve to take care of myself. I deserve happiness, and I will keep moving and progressing until I make a difference in this world.

Reality

Teaches

It feels like I am suspended-like I am just buying time until the pain goes away. But really, we can’t wait for an undesirable situation to subside to continue living. We find ways to assimilate- counseling, hobbies, friends, drugs.


Really though, I’m not sure how effective all the crutches are. I am here. This is my life. This is my pain. By adding all the additional insight and levels of understanding, we both add to and subtract from the suffering. Is “enlightenment” really helpful? Or should we just come to terms with what is, without all the attempts to modify reality and distract ourselves.


The ways in which traumatic handicaps affect life before trauma are the things that make the handicaps unbearable. I am crippled , and reminded of what I am missing. At the same time, understanding the way my illness gives me a place in the world allows for more comfort and patience. When we live with intention and awareness, I’m not sure the suffering can be separated from the enlightenment. I am sick. I am crippled. I am different, and in order to cope, I need strength, patience, and self-love. I can’t suspend either the pain or the life around it.

No More

This is not a life. I keep counting the moments that I’m wasting- mentally tracing the outlines of plans that I have for myself that grow more into distant dreams. I watch my roommates scurry around the house and leave traces of their happy, busy selves behind. I do their dishes, dry swallow pain pills and go back to my room to think, dwell, cry, alone with my pain.
My body is confused, tired, sick. It hurts all the time and it feels weak and defensive when I try to make it get up and live. It feels alien to me. I don’t know how I’ll feel each morning when I wake up. I don’t know what sort of discomfort I’ll have for the rest of the day, or how I’ll be able to cope with it. Every day, I wake up sick, and I go to bed sick.
I tried, for a while, to keep being me, but it’s too hard. It’s too hard to drag a sick body to class and do college things and force it to do things it doesn’t want to do. I’m an outline of a person now. I am the things that Summer wanted in a body that won’t move, or live, or feel. This is not a life, anymore.

Separate Self

I took a break from the blog for a while. It seemed to be becoming too negative. It was establishing a self that I didn’t want to be. If I squashed the sad, sick Summer, without publicising her, it would all be okay. Then I could get back to the grind, and my blog would reflect the more internet-acceptable me. We blame ourselves a lot. We try to beat, tame, and smother the parts of ourselves that our society tells us are weak and undesired: the sick, the depressed, the different, the confused. Those parts of us that are inherent and not necessarily “bad,” but less understood and accepted by the mass than others.

We spend so much time hiding and hating ourselves. Everything that’s unique and beautiful about us, we perceive as deficient. In Buddhism, there is an understanding that suffering arises from the idea that there is a separate self, i.e., we can detach flaws from the aggregate of characteristics that we perceive to be our identity. Fear, sadness, yearning, and illness are all natural phenomena that contribute to the fullness of life and the fulfillment of the individual.

I cannot hide my illness− I can’t put it away until I’m mentally prepared to accept it. But I can accept that my other ambitions and personal qualities can exist alongside it. And I can stop waiting for it to be invisible to others. False feelings of inadequacy are too rampant in our world. There is no reason to feel that you are less entitled to life and happiness than other beings. There is no reason to be ashamed of life. We must allow all of ourselves to be awake and alive. If we starve the parts of ourselves we don’t value, we only foster an incomplete and dishonest life. People get angry, selfish, hungry, tired. For some reason, we value the ability to control those natural aspects of humanity. Stop. Attend to yourself. Love yourself. If you only value part of character, you are choosing to strain and disable the very part you most value, for fear of the resources that enable it. You cannot be helpful to others if you are sick and starving yourself. You cannot be academically successful if you aren’t envious of those who know more that you. You cannot be in a healthy relationship if you don’t allow anger. Stop lying. Stop hiding. Know those needs, and allow yourself to thrive with them instead of forcing yourself into suffering because of them.

Letting Go of Stability

My body has been in such limbo for the past couple weeks that I really struggled to find stability in my life. I felt like I had nothing to hang onto. When something as basic as biological cues for sleep and hunger disappeared, it’s difficult to look elsewhere for comfort and reassurance.

We need things in our lives that are stable. That’s why we establish schedules– we go to bed at the same time each night, we wake up to the same coffee in the same mug every morning, chew the same brand of gum, and overuse the same phrases. People develop addictions and eating disorders to find stability in their bodily consumption when other parts of life have gone awry.

I don’t mean to suggest we don’t need spontaneity and variety in our lives also. We just have to be in tune with what our bodies need– when we’re able to push them and when they need rest. My past two weeks of illness were so difficult because of the lack of stability: the new pains, the relentless discomfort, the lack of certainty. I felt like I had nothing to fall back on. My medications weren’t working (I later discovered they were causing more symptoms), even liquids were making me sick to my stomach. I just needed something to comfort me or give me reassurance for a moment. We can only cope with excruciating pain when we have strength beforehand and relief afterward. I didn’t have either.

So I gave in. I let the pain happen. I stopped searching for what I’d remembered as comfort and stability, and looked for it in my new environment. I changed my mentality, I left my house in the avenues and went home with my mom for a few days. Once I let go of routine and familiarity, I noticed new ways for me to find rest and comfort– aides I had been taking for granted all along. I started talking to people more, wandering outside, appreciating small things like hot showers and the feeling of being cuddled up under a blanket. I let myself notice periods of rest so the pain didn’t take over. In order to heal, people need both rest and change. Sometimes that takes letting go of our reservations to hold onto new sources of healing.

Welcome

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I’m Summer. This is me: a twenty-year-old student at the University of Utah– also a student of life. I watch people closely and I listen to what they’ve learned in their wandering. I try to interact with the world, rather than just exist in it. You should do the same. It will help you start living and stop taking up space. That is my greatest fear– to “take up space,” to stop being useful and relevant to the world, and to use more resources than I create. Here’s the conundrum: I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia last year. That means I spend a lot of time on my couch instead of out in the world, exploring, living, learning. I have to take a lot of synthetic drugs that conflict with my ideals. I have to be selective about the food I eat. I have to “rest” a lot, which, to me, lands me a glamorous title of “lazy, selfish, ignorant consumer.” It sucks. A lot. At the same time, it’s made me aware. I’m aware of people and how they choose their places in the world, and I am aware that I still have that choice. I will keep my “awareness” and use it to cultivate movement and change. I will see the world, and use my words to make known the things that too often go unnoticed. I’m sick, but strong, and I haven’t lost my ambition.

This is the beginning of my manifesto– my pledge to stop worrying and start speaking; to stop mourning the life I could’ve had and to start creating the one that’s here. I’ve been dwelling for too long on what I’m missing. I need to cultivate what I have. People pity and excuse themselves too much. We blame, we blind ourselves for comfort, we worry, and we lack self-love. This blog is my attempt to change that. It’s me loving and learning and saying it out loud. I’ll talk about how I see the world through my sick-goggles, and how I see the world without them. I’ll talk a little about self-care, and I’ll rant a little about ignorance. I’m a pretty standard Utah college girl with a unique window to the world. Here’s what I see. I hope you’ll use it.