Extended trips to a hospital suck. Here’s what you can do to make it more comfortable.

I recently returned from a long trip to Mayo Clinic. It was successful and I learned a lot — including a bit about self-soothing. Okay my mom helped too.

The point is, having a long stay at a hospital can be really depressing, uncomfortable and the homesickness sets in the moment you set down your bags. All we ever want to do when we’re sick is to cuddle up with something familiar. Here are some things you can do to make the stay a little more comfortable.

Where you stay

  • Do you like walks? Baths? Working out? Try and stay at a place that allows you to have at least one outlet or point of comfort on-site. I personally desperately wanted a bath tub. My whole body hurt after long days of being poked and prodded and all I desired was to melt in an epsom soak tub.
  • Also, keep in mind proximity to the hospital. My mother and I chose to stay close enough to the hospital that it wasn’t stressful to drive there and back a couple of times a day, but far enough that I didn’t completely feel like I staying was on campus.

What you bring

Bring anything that reminds you of home and makes you feel the most like yourself. Stuffed animals, a candle, a book, tarot cards, excessive skincare options (obviously I took part in this one). No matter your age, this is your chance to have a safety blanket when you want it. If you have an emotional support animal and are able to bring them, DO! Now that I have my puppy, I wish she would have been there with me.

What I brought: 

  • Tarot cards
  • Magazines/books
  • Crystals
  • Skincare/treatments and masks
  • My favorite sweatshirt and sweater
  • Fluffy socks (it was summer but I was able to snuggle up during a movie!)
  • Bright nail polish
  • Homemade soap from Sade Baron
  • Lord Jones CBD Gumdrops

I was planning on only bringing comfy clothes and was going to opt out of bringing my favorite handbag. At the last second, I tossed it in and I’m so happy I did! It helped me feel more like myself and less like a patient (even if I needed to be one for 12 hours a day).

What you can get there

  • My mom came up with the best idea on the first day — flowers. We went to Trader Joe’s and took some time to pick a few different kinds of my favorite, non-allergic flowers. After that, we went to the local dollar store and bought a couple of vases so that we could make bouquets and place them around the hotel room. If they don’t have vases, use big cups or glasses!
  • We also got little baskets to put our toiletries in. This way, it looked more homey and we didn’t have to go through the process of digging through our bags every time we needed lotion or toothpaste. It was all out for us to see!
  • Cotton pads and micellar water saved my life during this trip! Okay maybe not. But they saved my skin! Every night I was too tired to stand at the sink and wash my face. With micellar water and cotton pads, I was able to wash my face in bed and go to sleep feeling clean.
  • Epsom salt is easy to find at any pharmacy so you don’t need to lug around a 6 lb bag. My favorite is Dr. Teal’s Lavender Epsom Salt. Dump a bunch of that into your tub and wait for you muscle aches to chill out.

Set it up

  • Put away all signs of the hotel. If there’s a sign telling you how to use the coffeemaker, hide it. It’s amazing how putting away those constant reminders can help you settle in and shake off that hospital/patient feeling.
  • Spread color and flowers around the room(s)! I’m a big believer in color therapy. Happy colors make you happy!
  • Stock your fridge with healthy snacks that fit your diet. And make sure to bring some with you during the day while you’re running between tests and appointments. Hospitals have horrible options for anyone with dietary restrictions.

As always, feel free to share your recommendations and ask questions in the comments section!

IMG_6864

Thoughts on sex and disability

As conversations regarding inclusion and diversity continue to escalate, there is one group that seems to be habitually left out of the conversation: those living with a disability. Few films, television shows or brand campaigns today showcase members of the disabled community. Moreover, sex for those living with a disability remains totally tabooed. As young actress Coco de Bruycker says, “No one really links disability to beauty, sexual attraction or eroticism.”

In an effort to shed light on the sex lives of the disabled, we spoke to a group of female-identifying individuals about their personal experiences and what they wish society would recognize. This is part two in a two part series.

As told to Sara Radin.

IMG_5449

I’m a Czechoslovak American journalist and blogger living in Boston. I’m currently working as PRI The World’s Digital Editor but blog as a chronic illness and disabilities haver/advocate. Journalism is absolutely not a low-stress field so I’ve really had to learn how to balance the daily grind with regularly checking in with how I feel. I’m not always good at it but I’m learning a lot about my own boundaries.

I have an array of health issues and am actually going to Mayo Clinic in July in hopes of finding some more answers. Currently, I’m diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, severe chronic migraine, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, arthritis as well as chronic pain and fatigue. Unfortunately these all impact everything I do. My energy levels are just completely destroyed most of the time and I’m pretty much in a constant state of full body pain — whether it be from the migraines, Crohn’s or something else. For example my hands are often in so much pain that I can’t hold my partner’s hand. Crohn’s Disease is obviously one illness that impacts intimacy. I joke and call it a pooping disease but it’s far far more than needing to run to the bathroom. Personally, I deal with excruciating abdominal pain, weight loss, joint swelling, vision and skin issues, etc.

All of this impacts my relationship with my body. And obviously my own relationship with my body impacts my sex life. So it’s been a journey and always will be. My hope is to continue to heal my relationship with my own body so that I’m fully able to indulge in a great and healthy sex life.

There are two things I wish people would know about living with a disability/chronic illness.

First off, it absolutely impacts your sex life. I think people so infrequently talk about disabilities and chronic illness that fully-abled people may not even realize how a disability or illness can impact the way you feel about your body, and in turn, the way you feel about or experience sex.

Second, I would love for people to consider that many who live with a disability or chronic illness may have an invisible illness — or an illness that you can’t see from the outside. If we walk around while keeping this in the back of our heads, I think we’d all be a lot more understanding of each other and we’d invest more in communicating with one another. Living with a disability or chronic illness provides you with a lot of mental and physical challenges that directly impact your sex life and relationships — whether or not you can see those challenges from the outside. It’s so important to talk about these experiences with your partner so that they can not only cater to your pleasure, but perhaps avoid circumstances that might otherwise make you uncomfortable. Maybe sometimes your illness or disability messes with your confidence. Maybe you’re not even feeling well enough to have sex. Maybe there’s a part of your body you would prefer not to have touched or a position that causes you pain. These are all things we should communicate to our partners. And who knows, maybe a new partner also has an invisible illness.

Honestly, I was really quiet about my illnesses in the past. At the time, I was ashamed and saw it as a point of vulnerability. And at the beginning of a relationship that can be really intimidating! But hiding my own experiences and struggles often resulted in a wall forming between my partners and I. I didn’t have much of a choice in telling my now fiancé about my illness — he was standing next to me when I was diagnosed only a month into us dating! That initial jump quickly threw us into a very communicative relationship and I am so thankful for that.

I am happily engaged to my partner who really gave me hope in forming relationships with an illness. The number one thing a good partner can do is communicate. Whether it’s simply listening to whatever ailments your partner is struggling with or what things your partner has discovered they like or don’t like as a result of their illness, it’s important to talk. Talking about sex can only bring honesty and genuinely satisfactory experiences.

The only way we can break the stigma of living with disabilities or chronic illness is if we share our own experiences, and truly listen and empathize with others.

Read the full piece and the rest of the series at dameproducts.com

Losing Bourdain

I was a freshman journalism student when I met Anthony Bourdain. After reading all of his books and seeing each show at least twice, I cancelled a weekend away with friends to splurge on last-minute tickets to see him speak. Although most of Bourdain’s stories were familiar to me — I had watched every episode of “No Reservations” — it was beyond worth it.

Following the event, I finagled my way into the VIP meet and greet just so Bourdain would sign my first travel journal. He was kind enough to humor my jittery, 18-year-old self with a brief conversation and a scribble in my notebook. Bourdain sweetly posed for a picture with my dweeby face peeking over his shoulder.

IMG-5067

I quickly told him about growing up with an American mother and Czechoslovak father, who instilled a passion for travel and food. I explained that my love for his show and approach to culture stems from the lessons my parents taught me. Essentially, if someone makes you food — no matter the appearance or ingredients — you eat it with the same respect and admiration as if your own grandmother set the plate in front of you. You should probably even take seconds. I’ve always strived to embrace traveling and storytelling in that way.

When I left the event, I immediately called my mom. I was on fire. The whole world seemed so open and I desperately wanted to dive in. I continued to pursue my career in journalism, high off of that one encounter that triggered my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed demeanor.

But just as my jaded mentors predicted, that sparkle faded. The weight of the world just gets heavier. The hopelessness from pouring your soul into telling the stories you were so honored to recount only to fall flat, has been destructive. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t faced several existential crises over the years.

Many of us saw Bourdain as an idol — and perhaps that was our biggest mistake. His death so harshly reminds us that fame is not impervious to pain or sadness. We frequently omit this reality. We focus on mirroring our heroes’ success instead of recognizing the human that created it.

Bourdain embraced and uncovered human imperfections whether it be by talking about his own struggle with addiction or listening to the conflicts of others. He worked to humanize and empathize with people from every corner of the world by sharing their most vulnerable moments with them  at the table. Bourdain appeared fearless. He was a warrior for many by mainstreaming travel and acceptance rather than tolerance.

The announcement of his death will ring in my ears for a while. It will remind me to take my own mental health more seriously. No more skipping therapy appointments because I’m too busy. No more hiding my pain in fear of judgement. We’ll honor Bourdain by living our lives with fervor and empathy for those around us.

Hug your loved ones. Call your therapist. Take your meds. Drink that glass of wine and slurp those noodles. RIP, Tony. You are missed.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255

 

Karolina’s Spicy Hot Toddy

Whether you’re still getting over the flu, are starting to get a cold, or just want a healthy — and slightly boozey — drink, this hot toddy is calling your name. I added a few adaptogenic ingredients with anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting benefits. Feel free to follow my rough recipe or add your own adaptogens for whatever your body might need!

Ingredients:

  • about 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • about 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • ginger (grated, cubed, however you want it. I like mine extra spicy and aromatic because ginger is so good for your belly. I clean the ginger and cut off about an inch-long piece and dice it.)
  • about 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (ground or sliced if you have some hanging around the house …  you know, chillin’ turmeric.)
  • lemon to taste
  • 1 tsp of honey
  • decaffeinated black tea (Caffeine can dehydrate you so I like to use decaffeinated Earl Grey)
  • Boiling water
  • your choice of whiskey

Instructions: 

While your water is boiling add ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric and your tea bag to a mug. I don’t strain out the ginger because I like to get as much of it as I can.

Once water has boiled, pour into your mug and stir. Let tea steep for around 4 minutes.

Squeeze lemon into your toddy and allow it to cool off so as not to burn off the alcohol of the whiskey.

Stir in honey until it dissolves.

Once cooled, pour in however much whiskey you want (I won’t judge).

Sip, enjoy, heal! I recommend sitting in a lavender epsom salt bath while you indulge in your healthy treat.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Skincare favorites that I have, or will, repurchase

I try a lot of products and companies are kind enough to share some with me. Here are some favorites that I can’t see myself without!

Herbivore Botanicals Rose Hibiscus Coconut Water Face Mist — This is the best face mist I’ve ever used! It’s hydrating and brightening. I use is before applying creams and serums as well throughout the day.
Virtue Labs Split End Serum and the entire Full collection, including the 6-in-1 cream — Honest to god lifesavers. (Read my posts about how Virtue saved my hair) Also, use code KARO for 20% off!
Drunk Elephant Skincare C-Firma Day Serum — This is a seriously intense brightening serum. Kind of makes your face smell like a campfire but it doesn’t bother me because it works so well! You can also buy the Drunk Elephant Rise and Glow Duo to try it out without splurging on the full size C-Firma.
Origins Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Soothing Treatment Lotion — If you have super dry, sensitive or psoriasis-prone skin, you NEED this. This stuff saved me from major psoriasis flares on my face this winter. On bad days, I soak a cotton pad with the lotion and press it on to the really inflamed areas.
Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream — I’ve tried tons of eye creams because my under eye circles are one of my biggest insecurities. This one is my favorite so far! It’s really hydrating, has a pretty sheen to lighten up dark areas, and layers really well under makeup! This is easily a dupe for Sunday Riley’s Eye Contour that’s almost twice the price.
Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm — I’ve turned into a balm fan! I loved using oil cleansers (if you prefer oils to balms, I recommend the Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil). I feel like I don’t need to use as much product with balms because it clings to my face. It’s also really gentle so you don’t have to feel so guilty about scrubbing your eyes after a night out.
Glossier Super Pure Serum — Got a breakout? This will help. I use it as a preventative for hormonal acne before my period and it works wonders. Great for reducing redness and inflammation. Shop with me and get 20% off your first order!
Rapidlash Eyelash Enhancing Serum — This is the only reason I have eyelashes tbh. Fast working and gentle. I never had a reaction to it like I did with other eyelash growth serums and it lasts a long time!
Ouai Wave Spray — The best wave Spray for your hair. But you already knew that. I love that it comes in two sizes, just in case you want to test it out first.
Weleda Skin Food — I use this stuff on everything: hands, knees, elbows, on my face, as an eye cream. You need this.
Thayers Witch Hazel Toner in Rose — A lovely, gentle, hydrating toner that you can get at your grocery store. I’ve bought maybe 3 giant bottles of this.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

How to save your hair from winter static

I know what you’re thinking, “Karolina, why are you just now giving me winter advice?It’s almost February!” But if you live in the Northeast like me, winter could continue for at least another month. Plus, I wanted a couple of months to test out these products before I declared them lifesavers. So, cut me some slack.

Now let’s get into it. I have never in my life gone through an entire winter without staticky hair. Hair that sticks to my hats, sweaters — and when I have bangs — hair that’s plastered to my forehead. As you may know, I’ve battled with my hair my whole life (thinness, hair loss, dryness, etc. Read this if you want to know how I won that battle).

This winter, I changed things up and I experienced my first cold months sans-static.

Here’s what worked for me:

IMG-0670.JPG

*full transparency* Virtue Labs sent me these products a couple of months ago. I started using them and fell absolutely in love after seeing the results. They’ve truly changed my hair, and in-turn my confidence and my life. I’ve decided to work with them after being seduced by their awesome products and ethical production.

Use code: KARO for 20% off. 

  • Virtue Labs The One For All 6-in-1 Styler: Use about a quarter-sized amount (depending on the length/thickness of your hair,  your perfect product amount may change) on damp hair. Smooth through mid-shaft to ends. Comb through for a smoother look and scrunch for a wavier look OR style however you’d like!
  • Virtue Labs The Perfect Ending Split End Serum: Just do what you did up there ^!

Pretty simple, huh? And it works beautifully. I now have stronger, more conditioned hair.

Bonus: If you have frizz and want to tame it, Ouai’s Smooth Spray is killer.

 

How I grew my hair back (after harsh meds and disastrous haircuts)

I’ve struggled with my hair for my whole life. I wasn’t gifted super thick locks to begin with (thanks, genetics), but the combination of harsh medications and rapid weight loss certainly doesn’t help. To make matters worse, a few years ago I was seduced by the cliche of chopping my hair after a breakup. On good days, it was adorable. But it also meant I needed to suffer through the process of growing it out once I was tired of sporting a bob.

Here’s what helped me achieve the healthiest — and soon to be longest — hair I’ve ever had.

BIOTIN — It makes all of your hair grow more. But hey, it’s easier to quickly remove hair than it is to grow it back. It’s worth extra waxing and this is what I swear by. I take organic biotin chews because I take so many other pills that I figure I’ll give my stomach a break.

REGULAR TRIMS — Keep the hair that you do have on your head, healthy and strong. I usually get a trim every two months.

STYLE — Get yourself an awesome stylist to make all the in between cuts look intentional. I’ve been going to Jaime at Stilisti in Boston for years now. She took my mullet and turned it into a cute cut at each stage of hair growth. It saved me, because I probably would have chopped my hair off again in desperation for a style.

PRODUCT — It matters. Some products can leave residue on your hair that will lead to breakage. You don’t want to undo all of your hard work! I’ve been using Virtue products for the past week. Full disclosure, they did send them to me. However, my hair has never felt so smooth and healthy and I find myself recommending the products to all my friends and family. Even my fiancé uses it!

Call me a stoner, but I love my medical marijuana

Today was a great example of how medical marijuana saves me.

I woke up nauseous, in a lot pain and with terrible anxiety. I thought maybe it would be another lost Sunday in bed.

Then, I took an edible.

My day turned into cleaning, dancing and writing. I was able to be me.

Most days involve dragging myself out of bed while in a lot of pain. I’ve been sick since I was about eight-years-old — which means I’ve tried pretty much every medication in the book.

Morphine. Demerol. Dilaudid. None of it cuts the pain. I’ve had it all orally, injected and continuously through the IV. For nausea, I’ve tried Zofran, Compazine, Reglan — doesn’t touch me. I still puke and feel horrible. And if one more person recommends Tums or Pepto, I’m going to scream. For migraines, I’ve done Topamax, Sumatriptan, Imitrex, Fioricet, narcotics, nerve blockers, Botox. And nada. These are all to name a few — excluding natural remedies and diet changes.

F38F409F-1A27-44D3-A6A3-25AD31EBBAC4 (1).jpg

So, when I started using medical marijuana and discovering the various options it presented me with, it changed my life. Really. I can get out of bed. I can do simple things like the laundry and the dishes, without having to stop for a nap. I can eat a full, balanced meal. I can take a deep breath and let out a roaring laugh. I can see friends and dress up to go to my favorite restaurant.

All without pumping my body full of poison and causing other debilitating symptoms.

So, yeah. You bet I’m a stoner, pot head, space-cadet.

IMG-8287.JPG

Some quick terms: Cannabis 101 

Strains | Methods I’m using now:

  • Chem Dawg — Vaporized. Hybrid. Great for nausea and pain. Psychoactive qualities but strong against pain and anxiety. Potent for new users.
  • Heavenly Haze — Vaporized. Hybrid. Great for nausea and pain. Psychoactive qualities but strong against pain and anxiety. Super chill.
  • Hurricane — Flower. Hybrid. Awesome for pain but definitely gets you stoned. Gives me great giggles. This is awesome if you go to a party and everyone else is drinking. (Hey, sick people like to have fun too!)
  • Sweet Tooth — Vaporized. Indica. Subtle. Eases pain. Good before bed. You’ll get the best sleep.
  • Cubes — Edibles. Hybrid. Extended effects of anti-nausea/pain. Great for the weekend!
  • Lord Jones CBD Lotion — Great for sore muscles and achey joints. Non-psychoactive.

Let me know your favorite strains and products in the comments!

TLDR; Jeff Sessions, keep your grimy paws off my pot. 

giphy

Cannabis 101

  • Indica —One of the three types of marijuana. Sedating and relaxing. Great for sleep issues, pain and anxiety.
  • Sativa — One of the three types of marijuana. Uplifting and focusing. Awesome for fatigue and depression.
  • Hybrid — One of the three types of marijuana. A mix of Indica and Sativa for a happy, chill medium. My personal favorite.
  • CBD — Non-psychoactive (doesn’t get you high). Soothes muscles and anxiety. Good option for days at work.
  • Flower — Allows you to better taste the plant. Can take a toll on your lungs over time.
  • Vape — More healthy for you than smoking. Usually comes in pen (like the one in the main image). More potent than flower.
  • Edible — You eat it. Duh. The effects last far longer because you’re digesting it.

xIspUeNQA2h8rBNhMHAk_sativa-indica-comparison (1)

It’s time we take stress seriously

I’ve been a stress ball since I was little. I’m type-A and I take some convincing when it comes to calming down. Instead of my parents yelling at me to do my homework, they would tell me to go to bed already because I was staying up too late working on my project. I basically came out of the womb with a furrowed brow.

10828133_787994617958064_4949245330923131461_o
Note the intensity of four-year-old Karolina.

When I got diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, that changed (or rather, it needed to). Stress doesn’t cause Crohn’s but it is one of the biggest triggers for a flare. The same goes for my other inflammation-driven ailments: psoriasis, migraines, chronic pain. I’ve known this for most of my life, but that doesn’t mean I always gave stress the credit it deserves.

You see, I never wanted to admit that my body was being rundown by stress — that I was actually harming myself with it. People often look down on being stressed. You know what I mean — when you can’t eat or sleep and your friend says, “oh, you’re just stressed.”

But stress is so much more than what causes a permanent crease on your forehead. Some of the symptoms of stress are: headaches, muscle pain, digestive issues, sleeping problems, chest pain and a weaker immune system. None of those symptoms should be taken lightly. The most alarming thing about stress is that is can physically change your body. Doctors know that high levels of stress can actually change the composition of bacteria in your gut — leading to digestive issues like IBS. And if I wasn’t freaking you out enough before, recent research suggests that chronic stress can alter your DNA.

This summer, I landed in the emergency room. I couldn’t stop throwing up. I had an ongoing migraine for weeks. Not even morphine would touch my abdominal pain. I was convinced I was having a flare and so were my doctors. So they kept me in the hospital and ran some tests. My blood came back pretty normal and my MRI results were at my baseline. I had a follow-up appointment with my gastroenterologist and he asked me if I was stressed more than usual. I was. We talked some more and my doctor told me that my stress levels were so high that my body was mimicking a Crohn’s flare. I was really happy to hear that I wasn’t flaring up again but it was quite a slap in the face. This is what stress can do to your body if you don’t manage it.

All this to say, TLDR; Everyone gets stressed and stress makes everyone sick. Stop feeling bad about being impacted by stress, and start advocating for your body. 

Here are some things that have helped me manage stress:

  • Making self-care a priority
  • Having a pet
  • Creating an oasis (this can be you bedroom, a library, a park)
  • CBD/Medical Marijuana (post on this coming soon)
  • Laughing
  • Listening to my body and responding to what it needs
  • Learning to say “no” sometimes
  • Acupuncture