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!

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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