A Reflection on Health at the End of the Year

Merry Christmas Eve!

I’m here in my gym clothes, waiting for them to magically convince me to go outside for a run. But first, I’m standing in my kitchen making a list of all the doctor’s appointments I need to make in 2016.

Let’s see, there’s the podiatrist follow up appointment the third week of January. There’s the eye doctor appointment I NEED to make because I’m at the point where I need to wear my glasses just to see myself apply makeup in the mirror and at 27 years old, it’s about damn time I learn how to pop in some contacts. That should be one of the first to make–mid January at least. A dentist appointment is necessary because, well, frankly it’s been too long. February should work since there’s usually about a two month wait anyway. A gynecologist appointment simply because it’s been a year and finally a dermatologist appointment but at least that one can actually wait until next December. Then of course an annual exam that I’ll schedule in six months, sometime around my birthday. This is quite a list, no? What’s crazy is that I had my last annual check up with my general practitioner this past September and EVERYTHING was totally fine, normal, “you’re in PERFECT health!”

Awesome.

But then I broke out. And I mean…BROKE THE EFF OUT. Acne. All over my chin, up my cheeks, starting to brew on top of my eyebrows. Acne so bad I refused to leave the house. Acne to the point where every time my husband suggested going out to dinner or, you know, simply doing something, I ran to the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror and cried. Inevitably, we never made it out. For a month.

“You’re in PERFECT health!”

I wanted so bad to believe it. But my face was telling me otherwise. Was it my diet? At this point it was mid December and my acne had been flaring since mid November. The holidays had begun and snacks that used to consist of veggies and chicken were now a bite of cookie dough here and giant spoonful of gravy slathered stuffing there. Salt, sugar, fat, white flour, etc. Of course my skin was going nuts. But then, truth be told, I’ve eaten like crap before and my skin has never reacted this way. Surely my diet was no help to the matter but it wasn’t the only cause.

I started looking at new products I was using. Stopped using some products. I thought my acne was clearing but what were once huge, inflamed red bumps just shrunk down to pink, still bumpy cysts. Every time I washed my face I had to fight back the tears while feeling the bumpy, uneven texture of my skin that was once so perfectly smooth and soft. Something that once was such a joy in my life, makeup, became this awful game that I dreaded playing and always lost at. I stayed up late at night for hours reading everything on the internet about break outs and thinking of what home remedies I’d try next or what product I’d remove from my routine. I refused to admit that I had acne. I’ve never had a problem with my skin. In my 27 years I’ve never had more than 2 or 3 pimples at a time and those only came during my “time of the month”.

Finally, in a fit of tears and despair, standing over my bathroom sink washing off yet another mask only to be greeted with the same red, splotched and swollen face I made the desperate call to the dermatologist.

“My next appointment is in three weeks, is this an emergency or is that ok?”

YES, it’s an emergency…I can’t live like this anymore.. “No, no emergency, I’ll take the soonest you have.”

“Great, we’ll see you in a few weeks!”

At least there was a shred of hope. Actually, in a few weeks maybe it would all be gone! I’ll just go in and have my moles and sun spots checked, my face won’t even be an issue.

The day of my appointment came. I taught a spin class that morning and I was so nervous I could barely ride the bike for fear that I would go into cardiac arrest since my heart was pounding so fiercely. The day of the appointment I still had angry red spots all over my face but the acne was the last thing on my mind. There was that spot on my chest, the sort of raised one that never used to be so raised on my shoulder, the one that sometimes itches on my back, that new one that recently appeared on my toe, and…oh God, I’ve spent so much time in tanning beds. What about that time in Aruba when I refused to wear anything above SPF 4 and burned so bad that I peeled the whole plane ride home….

After an hour and a half wait I saw the doctor. At my request he checked my spots first. All was fine. Suddenly I realized something. I was no longer upset with the cards I’d been dealt. He looked at my face, “You’ve got some acne here! Cystic…they’re deep beneath the skin…” There it was. I have acne. However, the moment I heard it, for the first time, I didn’t care. I had acne, sure, but I DIDN’T have skin cancer, I didn’t even have a questionable spot. Was acne really that bad? At that point I could care less. I had acne, not skin cancer…of all the things to be at the dermatologist for, I would choose acne again and again and again.

Then he looked at my feet and there was a “but..”

Shiver….”you do have a case of Athlete’s Foot,”

Excuse me?

“I’ll write you a scrip, we’ll take care of it, here take a look at this peeling skin under your toes…”

“I thought that was dry skin? I’ve always had that?”

“That’s not dry skin, I’ll put in a scrip now.”

“That’s ok…I honestly have no idea how long I’ve had this so can you just recommend a good podiatrist?”

I left the office with a prescription to cure my acne and a whole slew of questions, the first being, “have I let myself go? Is this it? Is this how it happens?”

Acne, foot fungus, what the fuck next????????????

Rationally enough I came home, drank a beer and made/ate Christmas cookies.

I also made an appointment with a podiatrist.

It’s been two weeks since that dermatologist appointment. My acne has cleared up tremendously, but there are still a few spots. I’m not rushing the healing I know it will take time. The medicine is making my skin peel and drying it out in a way my combination skin has never, ever experienced but I’m giving it more TLC than I ever have and moisturizing like crazy to try and keep it balanced as the treatment works and my skin renews itself and gradually heals. I know this will be a process.

I’ve always felt healthy. I’ve always been able to run, jump, move and live my life without interference. I’ve always made sure the first thing I pray for every night is gratitude for my health and to never, ever take it for granted but you know what?

I did.

I took my health for granted. I slacked off on healthy eating because I look ok. On the OUTSIDE. I didn’t wear my glasses because I forgot. I haven’t made an appointment with an eye doctor because I’m afraid to learn how to poke my own eye with a tiny little lens, despite the fact that I can poke, poke, poke like crazy with a pair of tweezers, a tiny little lash and glue.

Sometimes I work out consistently, sometimes I don’t, because I’ve been complacent. I’ve been at my best, I know how to get there but I’m rollin’ with what I’ve got. Why make the effort?

I rub moisturizer on my skin but I sort of just follow the fads…Oh this is supposed to be good? I’ll try it. Instead of really getting to know my skin…or letting a doctor evaluate it. Or really considering what it needs, regardless of what is the latest best seller.

I let my hair grow out till my split ends have reached half way up the strand. Because I “don’t have time”. I could put a mask on my hair…but I don’t. Why bother?

I could wake up a few minutes earlier every morning to put on sneakers before going to work. But I don’t…I sleep in the few extra minutes (as if it makes a difference) and wear flip flops to work because it’s easy. Then I wear the same old, dirty pair of sneakers that have been living in my locker at work for a YEAR now. Sometimes I forget to pack socks so I borrow someone’s or wear the “emergency” pair of socks that I keep in my locker and never wash.

What I’ve realized about health is it isn’t general. During my annual, my general check up, every single thing was fine. When it came down to the nitty gritty though? Everything was…off balance. Not sick, but certainly not exuding “perfect health”.

It made me realize that health, caring for ourselves, it’s about dotting our I’s and crossing our T’s. It’s about the little things, those little daily habits that, yea, most likely are a pain in the ass to do EVERY single day. But every single day adds up. Those little things may seem like nothing—like, wearing the right shoes to work, buying new sneakers, cleaning your socks, buying new socks when old socks show their age, wearing our glasses, getting checked the second something is off, drinking more water, skipping that second serving, getting that workout in even if it’s only 20 minutes. Over time doing or not doing these “little things” add up to BIG things – big advantages to our health or big problems.

Every now and then I would wake up and decide to hell with healthy eating…I’m going to eat whatever I want today. Every now and then I didn’t quite feel like working out, despite having the ability and necessary amount of energy to. Every now and then I grabbed socks out of the hamper instead of digging through my drawer to find a fresh pair. Every now and then I stayed up several hours later than I should even though I was tired. Every now and then I said, “sure, I’ll have cheese” even though I didn’t need it. Every now and then I had that coffee even though water was really what I needed. Every now and then I skipped out on things I proably should have done because I knew I could do them at a later point in time.

Guess what? The “later point in time” turned into never. Not doing things or doing the wrong things “every now and then” turned into consistently slacking to the point where the bad things were the new consistency and those healthy little things were inconsistent and I sat there wondering, “how the hell did I get here?” Like “what changed”, deluding myself as if it was just one thing. I believed I was getting away with it because in general, I was fine. In general I was “healthy”.

Fortunately, our bodies are a miraculous thing. At the end of the day, I guess they don’t really allow us to slack off, do they? When we do start to slack, believe it or not, they tell us and it’s up to us to listen. I could have ignored it and continued going the route I was going because Lord knows it is the easy one. Alas, here I am at the start of the new year making CHOICES…and deciding to go with the difficult choice, the one that requires effort. The effort isn’t just today it’s an effort that will need to be made every day, day after day after day until the good habits become as effortless as the bad ones once were.

Some people say this is just “getting older”. Our bodies can’t tolerate the things they used to, and, “doesn’t it suck?”

To be honest, no, I don’t think it sucks. I think it’s a blessing. The older I get the better and the quicker my body communicates with me. All I have to do, really, is listen. When I was younger, sure, I could drink all night and wake up feeling fresh as a daisy. Now my body gets a bit hungover. Is that a bad sign? I don’t think so. If I do something my body doesn’t like..it tells me, hell, it SHOWS me.

So this year, 2016, my resolution is simply to show my body that I’m listening. I see the cries for help…I see the problems and I want to resolve them. There are so many tiny little efforts to be made each day and I’m acknowledging that I’m going to make that effort and do them. I don’t want it to suck…I don’t want it to be hard, I want it to become routine. Why should I have to think about doing the good things? 2016 is the year the good, healthy habits become as natural as anything.

 

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!!

xoxo

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