Criminal Minds’ Penelope Garcia is a Revolutionary Character We Need -by Selfish Mitch

All female bodies are not the same, nor should they be. AK and I are almost exactly the same age and the same height, for example, but her body is healthiest at a size 0-4, and my body is healthiest at a size 8-12, depending on the brand. I have a broader, more bulkily muscled frame than she does. Her frame and muscles are lean. We’re both beautiful in our own way, and we think all women are too. For us, the goal is to be as healthy as possible, and if we look great, that’s a bonus.

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Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia  (source http://criminalminds.wikia.com/wiki/Penelope_Garcia)

 

However, if you watch TV or movies, look in fashion magazines and on popular Instagram accounts, you’ll find that the vast majority of women are size 00-4. They might be tall and lean like Taylor Swift, Allison Janney, or Blake Lively, or they may be short and tiny like Ariana Grande and Jada Pinkett Smith, or somewhere in between like Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox. All of those ladies are beautiful, but Hollywood has a type.

I’m glad that in recent years we’ve seen more representation of different body types in the media. Plus size model Ashley Graham is a great representation of that. Still, have you noticed that in film and television, women who don’t fit in a sample size, like Melissa McCarthy and Chrissy Metz, tend to have story lines that are dependant on weight issues? McCarthy and Metz are both incredibly talented, but Hollywood doesn’t really seem to know what to do with them. Melissa McCarthy is a really talented comedian and seems to really enjoy physical comedy, which is great, but she’s rarely shown as the beautiful, strong, kick ass type. Instead, she’s often in an unflattering wig and clothes that don’t fit, and fat jokes abound. Rebel Wilson is another talented, plus sized actor, and she’s best know for her turns in the Pitch Perfect trilogy, in which she plays a character who goes by “Fat Amy.”

Here’s where Penelope Garcia, who has been played by Kirsten Vangsness on CBS’s Criminal Minds, is revolutionary. Vangsness and I have similar shapes, so when I discovered Criminal Minds earlier this year (I know it’s kicking off its 14th season, don’t @ me), I paid attention. I almost never see women my size represented on screen, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one as strong, powerful, and put together as this character. Vangsness is a size 12 according to a recent article I found, but she, like most women of my size and shape, can go up and down a bit, especially depending on the brand of clothing you’re buying. She’s not technically “plus sized,” but she’s certainly a body type we don’t see much in Hollywood. She discussed the topic in an interview with Pride.com.

“Stylists on the set of the CBS series have gotten a bit of Vangsness’s do-it-yourself spirit as well. “They kept saying, ‘Can you bring your own clothes? We don’t have anything in your size.’ Because in Hollywood they have size zero and size 22,” says Vangsness, who is a size 12. “But if you lie somewhere between the 12 to 16 range…they keep trying to put you into a size 4. It’s the strangest thing. What ends up happening is they buy four size 2 Marc Jacobs dresses and make one size 12. Then someone out in TV land watches it and is like, ‘I can get that dress.’ No, you can’t because you don’t have a seamstress that will alter exactly to your body. I feel for everybody.”

I feel you, girl. We’re also in that size range where straight sizes fit us strangely and most plus size stuff is too big.

The character of Penelope Garcia is a rich and layered one. She’s a brilliant former computer hacker who leaves the dark web to go to work for the good guys, profiling criminals. She’s strong, witty, and doesn’t apologize for the space her body takes up. She’s confident, a great friend and co-worker, and a solutionary. She’s also a bit of a weirdo, wearing bright clothing and usually a few more accessories than fashion dictates. She has romantic relationships with attractive men and a flirtmance with co-worker Derek Morgan, who is played by the ridiculously attractive Shemar Moore. Their platonic friendship is deep, layered with mutual love and respect, but they never cross the boundary into a romantic relationship. The sexy banter between them would be enough that most HR departments would write them up, but it’s sweet, funny, sexy, and a great break in the middle of serious storylines about psychotic serial killers.

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Shemar Moore and Kirstin Vangsness photo source

What Penelope Garcia doesn’t do is whine about her weight. She doesn’t come into the office bitching that she only eats carrot sticks and still will never be the size of her gorgeous, athletic, thin, co-worker and close friend, J.J. Nobody suggests Keto or Paleo or the Cabbage Soup diet to Garcia. I haven’t heard anyone say, “Oh, Penelope. You have such a pretty face. Have you tried Pilates?” They do invite her out for drinks, confide in her and love her, and she pays that all right back. She’s been on the show for 13 years, and I’ve never seen Penelope Garcia give a fuck about her weight. She’s healthy, she’s happy, and she loves herself. She doesn’t hide her figure in oversized black sweaters; she flaunts it in bright, sometimes crazy, but flattering patterns. Her hair color changes often, and her makeup is bright. This is a woman who isn’t trying to blend into the wallpaper, making self-deprecating jokes, and waiting to start her life when she hits a magical number on the scale. In a world where people call Beyonce fat and where Scarlett Johansson has been turned down for roles because she’s too curvy, Penelope Garcia living her best life is what we need more of, especially since Vangsness is entering her 14th year of playing this groundbreaking character and I don’t see other shows stepping up and showing other 3 dimensional average sized women. Think about this: Criminal Minds premiered just months after Friends Joey, Chandler, Ross, Phoebe, Rachel and Monica took their final bow. I loved Friends, of course, but the Monica fat shaming was a bad trope. In fact, in the episode about what could have been in alternate futures, tiny Courteney Cox was in Monica’s fat suit, portrayed as an awkward 30 year old virgin who had never been in love and doesn’t seem to have any rich relationships in her life. We haven’t evolved enough since then.

But, Mitch, you say, there are other female fictional characters that appear on screen with more weight than we’re used to seeing. Surely, they can’t all have fat plotlines! I haven’t seen every movie or TV show ever made, so that might be true. I think we’re close with the amazing Aidy Bryant on Saturday Night Live. In fact, she did a Weekend Update segment as herself discussing how hard it is to get roles that don’t revolve around her size. She was once offered a part in a movie. The character didn’t have a name-it was just “Ugly Fat Friend.” Aidy is anything but ugly, and to keep up with SNL’s production schedule, guest starring in other TV shows, and doing stand up and other projects, she must be pretty damn healthy. The great thing about SNL, whether you’re a fan or not, is that the actors often do the sketch writing as well. They have more control over what they do and how they’re seen.

Click play to see Aidy owning this song along with her female castmates and guest star Saoirse Ronan.

We also have the hilarious Katy Mixon headlining her own show on ABC, called “American Housewife.” The show was originally entitled, “The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport.” I have to admit, the character is super relatable to me. Katy’s character, Katie Otto, seems pretty happy with who she is, and she has a loving, supportive, thin, capable husband (which is something I’ll get into in a separate post.) The character and her family move to a super affluent area so their children can have the best education possible, but they’re a middle class family in an area like the Hamptons or Calabasas, and the other moms are tiny, mean, and judgemental. Katy keeps it real, and seems to be happy with herself, but it is hard for her to not fit in with the other moms, even if she really dislikes most of them.

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Mixon playing Katie Otto, who is not having any of this bullshit today. Image: https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/television/2016/10/09/american-housewife-tackles-weighty-subject/HA5mA0bUWzPBrpT5q0LCOI/story.html

She actually creates extra trouble for herself by pushing back against the other parents. She thinks these people are all shallow and materialistic, and for the most part, they are. She’s concerned about her children’s values changing to reflect those of the new community, and she fights it pretty hard.  Still, there are several fat jokes in this show, and some of them are pretty cheap. Also, I think it’s important to note that Katie doesn’t make an effort to know most of the juice cleansing, work out clothes wearing, luxury SUV driving moms, so she’s also being judgemental based on looks. I still call it a bit of progress, just not badass Garcia progress. I do want to note that American Housewife has a different kind of progress-Katy’s best female friends are women of color, and one of them happens to be a lesbian. I love the real-life aspect of that. She has friends who don’t look just like her, who come from different backgrounds. She and her husband are very much in love and rarely put each other down, especially not to the extent we see in other sitcoms. They are portrayed as partners, which is good to see.

In today’s society, even though racists and homophobes, abelists and misogynists still run rampant, they’re being called out.  It seems like fat jokes are the last frontier for jokes about people. Hell, even Glee, the show that had a “very special episode” and set it’s social justice warrior mission to music every week, had unchecked fat jokes.

Still, it’s TV. It’s the movies; it’s not real life, right? In today’s society people are influenced by pop culture. TV shows, movies, reality stars, and even the President drop cruel words into our ears and onto our screens, and those words embolden people. We become a sum of our experiences, and if we are constantly taking in “jokes” about fatness, about people being different sized, that seeps into the general consciousness. When Trump calls Rosie O’Donnell a disgusting pig and says Heidi Klum is sadly, no longer a 10, it makes people think it’s OK to say those things as well. (Along with all of his other problematic opinions on “others”.) Sadly, I still hear people refer to people they care about as, “my fat friend? The one who you met at my party two years ago?” That’s the rub about being considered average or larger sized in our culture. You’re reduced to one characteristic; two if you’re lucky.

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I look different in these photos, but I have the same heart, mind, sense of humor, love, and ambition. Who I am doesn’t change with the way you see me. My self esteem no longer lives and dies by the scale. I’m stronger than that now, but many girls and women aren’t.

 

The fat funny girl. The fat girl with great hair. The fat girl who shouldn’t wear skirts that short. The fat bitch. The fat girl who’s got a great personality. The fat girl who is actually really pretty if you get to know her.

So, how do we react to this? How do we stop it? We can support movies made by female directors and screenwriters. Women, even women in Hollywood, have friends who are more than their weight, and that can come through in their storytelling. We can vote with our dollars for TV shows and movies who are doing it right.

In this world, we can use the internet to tell people exactly what we think of them. The comments any celebrity’s instagram will tell you that. So often people tell them they’re fat, they’re unworthy, unattractive. Don’t do that. If you know people who do that, call them out. Tweet at producers and studios that you want to be represented and respected on screen.

Most importantly, love yourself exactly as you are, exactly as you look right now. I’m working on losing weight put on by some medication right now, because the sudden weight increase has been hell on my joints. I’m working on becoming healthier, and for me that’s about 25 lbs of less fat and more muscle than where I am right now, but I’m not putting my life on hold until my favorite jeans fit again. I still love myself and know and respect myself and my journey.

If you have someone in your life that you see as overweight or fat and that’s part of your description of them, even if it’s only in your internal dialogue, stop that shit now. That person is aware of their weight. You don’t need to tell them. They know about diets and exercise, and if they want to work on losing weight or being healthier for themselves, that’s their journey. It’s not yours. It’s fairly likely they are their own worst critic, so you don’t need to tell them that something is tight or doesn’t look good on them. No, not even if you’re “just worried about their health.” Their health is their own damn business. I have friends who eat like shit, don’t exercise, and binge drink regularly. They almost never have people tell them to change because they’re damaging their health. I polled my friends. Unless they’re over size 10 or they’re size 00 or 0, nobody remarks on their “health”. In fact, I have one friend who drinks daily and smokes like a chimney. Nobody said a word to her about her health until she gained a bit of weight. So fuck that.

Everyone’s body is different. I look thin, strong, and healthy at 155-165 lbs if I’ve been working out. AK, who is my height and age, would look completely different at that weight. That’s my peak healthy weight, but for her, I’m not sure if she hit that weight when she was pregnant and felt huge. I have very thin friends with health problems and a friend who is a size 4X whose doctor constantly remarks on how healthy she is overall. Low blood pressure, great cholesterol numbers, etc. She’s working on losing weight, but she’s doing it her way. You don’t get an opinion or comment.

I’m hoping AK will write a post soon about her experience with people telling her she’s too thin. We hit opposite ends of that spectrum, and that’s not OK either. Sorry this is long, but I have words.

-Love, light, health, and the incredible badassery of Kirstin Vangsness AND Penelope Garcia,

Selfish Mitch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mitch Unboxes August 2018 Birchbox

Ok, enough of all of this heavy introspection for me today. I’m happy and moved but I’m exhausted. Back to the shallow end of my pool I go!

August 2018 Birchbox was in my mail, so I thought I’d unbox it for you and let you see what’s inside. Is it my favorite Birchbox ever? Is it worth every penny of the $10 it costs? Yes! I believe so.

Let me know what you think! Do you subscribe to boxes? Should I know about them?

 

Love and light (and actually not that much light because my house is a cave today)

-Selfish Mitch

Smooth Move, Universe. I Hear You Loud and Clear -Mitch

An unexpected kickstart to Eddy’s Happiness Project

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This is Eddy. He had crawled up on the arm of the couch facing backwards and wasn’t sure how to get himself down.

As I wrote in my last blog, My American Bulldog, Eddy, passed away suddenly of a heart attack. He was only seven and a half, and this loss has been terrible on me, and on everyone else who loved him. I’ve spent a lot of time crying, which I think is really normal, but as I was going through photos of him (I’m so glad I took so many!) I started to think about what Eddy cared about. I mean, he was a dog. He wanted food, he wanted walks, and he wanted love. However, his favorite thing was when his family was together and we were all happy. He wasn’t smart, but this guy knew how to spread love. It was hard to be in a bad mood with him around because he was always such a joyful boy.

I decided that the best way for me to honor Eddy’s memory is to find joy and bring it to others. I plan on doing a lot of journaling and beginning each day with meditation while I walk in nature and writing down my gratitudes each day. I figured I’d start Monday, because I like to start things on Mondays, and my journals will arrive from Amazon on Monday as well.

For some reason, I woke up at 6 am feeling better than I have in weeks. Maybe feeling better than I have, physically, in months. I got up, stretched, puttered around the house until just before seven, then grabbed Thor and his leash and decided to start our walks today instead of Monday.

 

 

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Walk? Hell, yes! -Thor

As the little man and I cruised through the neighborhood, looking at the beauty of the Superstition Mountains, we were both deep in thought. Thor was thinking about how cool it was to be able to pee in 634 different places. I was thinking about how odd it felt to walk without Eddy, of course, but I was also feeling grateful for a beautiful, cool morning and that I had my Thor to love. I was thinking that today was as good of a day as any to start spreading happiness to myself and others.

I blog under the name Selfish Mitch, because being selfish has always been a quality I’m aware of, and it certainly hurts some relationships when I’m not living in self awareness and trying to be my best self. If I get stressed or angry, that’s the trait that comes through a lot. Still, when I was diagnosed with chronic illness, I realized it was kind of great that I was born with the innate ability to say “no” to other people and things in my life that don’t serve me. Saying no to others and saying yes to ourselves is actually a big problem for a lot of women, healthy and ill alike, and it’s why so many of us feel frazzled. Women often give, give, and give before we tend to ourselves, which leads to feeling tired, grumpy, unhappy, and unappreciated. It’s honestly one of the reasons AK and I started this blog–to share our journeys of self love and self care as we try to find balance with the world. Still, I’ve been sad and stressed and not feeling well for quite a while, and I realized that I’ve really just been focusing on me too much. Being a little selfish is good. Being super selfish isn’t.

Yes, Eddy’s Happiness Project is about bringing happiness to myself, but a big part of it is purposefully spreading joy to others. As Thor and I were walking around we were both happy. I haven’t felt well enough in the morning to walk him around the neighborhood, so he was thrilled to explore. I was feeling grateful for my body and mind feeling healthy, grateful for a beautiful day, and I started thinking of how I could give back this week. I didn’t have any brainstorms, but there I was, on an unscheduled walk, and all of a sudden a skinny little pup without a collar came up to me. He looked like a chihuahua mix, and he let me pick him up right away. I looked around for an owner, and didn’t see one anywhere. We were pretty close to home, so I picked the little dude up and carried him home. He instantly found Thor’s food and water and filled his belly. I let them play while I grabbed my phone and tried to find his owners. Sure enough, the night before, someone had posted a picture of him on nextdoor.com. They went out to dinner last night, and when they came home their front door, side gate, and garage were wide open, and their little Max was gone.

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The guys on the way back to reunite Max with his Mom

They’d been up until 3 am looking for him. They thought that either the person who broke into their home took him, or he’d run away scared. He’s 8 years old and they’ve only recently adopted him from a rescue group, and he doesn’t know his name yet. We also live in an area where coyotes are known to grab cats and small dogs, so they were beside himself.

It’s just nuts to me that I woke up feeling amazing and somehow decided to go for a walk, during which I was brainstorming ideas to spread happiness around, and I was out at just the right time to find Max. He was standing in the middle of one of the busiest streets in my neighborhood. I hear you, Universe. I hear you Eddy. I was propelled into the right place at the right time to make a couple weep with joy. How amazing is that?

One other thing: a couple of days I turned off my Facebook notifications on my phone. It’s a huge distraction getting alerts pinging on my phone all day long. Once I got home, showered, and opened my computer to handle incoming calls for my real estate team, I did check facebook quickly and a new friend, who happens to be a fellow Poshmark seller, posted that she gave away some furniture to a family that had lost everything and asked if anyone could help. Since I have so much stuff that I’m reselling (650+ active listings on Poshmark, probably 300 more items to list) I will usually help by donating clothes. The other seller and I got into a dialogue about her idea to do classes for low income women to teach them about reselling. That’s another project I could get behind. It could seriously make a huge difference in the lives of families struggling to get by, and it wouldn’t take much of my time.

It’s just amazing what happens when you send signs into the Universe and you have clear intentions. I feel like I manifested two different ways to spread happiness just by going out into nature and asking for what I want. I never feel more spiritually connected than when I’m out in nature, and today was a huge sign that I’m headed in the right direction. Right now, I am happy.

Thank you, Eddy. I promise I’ll honor you forever.

Your loving Mama,

-Selfish Mitch

Introducing “Eddy’s Happiness Project” with Selfish Mitch

You may have noticed that I haven’t been around much lately. My dog, my sweet, sweet bulldog, who was really my favorite person in the entire world, passed away suddenly when my son and I were out of town visiting family in Montana.

There was no warning. He was happy, jumping around, playing with his puppy brother all the time. He’d been swimming in the pool just days before he passed away. The night it happened, my husband called me and said be thought Eddy didn’t feel well. We faced timed and he looked mopey, but OK. He was always moody when his mom wasn’t home. I got to tell him I loved him and I’d be back in a few days.

Two hours later, my husband called to tell me that my best guy was gone. I’d say my heart was broken; is broken, but that doesn’t even begin to describe how deeply I’m feeling this pain and loss. This dog was more than my emotional support animal. He was the sweetest, silliest animal in the world. He came into our home as a 5 month old energetic American Bulldog puppy. When he wasn’t running, he was on my lap. He arrived shortly after I’d been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The doctors had told me that I had blood markers that indicated I had an autoimmune disorder, but I didn’t check enough boxes yet for a diagnosis.

Eddy was with me. He was there when I had unexplained high fevers and pain. He didn’t mind missing his walk when my joints were too swollen to grasp his leash. Every night, between 9-10 PM, if I was in the living room, he’d growl at me until i went to bed. He wanted to go, but he doesn’t like to sleep alone. He wasn’t a smart dog, but it didn’t matter. He knew love. He knew how to comfort. He made us all laugh more times than we could even count. Every day of the seven and a half years he had on this world was filled with joy.

The night after he died, I was still in Montana with my family. My sleep was restless, but as soon as I woke up I felt the strongest wave of peace roll over my spirit. My sweet baby boy came to me in my dream and spoke to me. He told me that he was sorry he had to leave me, that he didn’t want to, but that it was necessary for him to go now so he could return to me when I need him the most in the future. He’s been back a few more times, reminding me to try to find joy. I feel him with me so, so much.

 

The best thing I can do right now, I think, is to honor his memory by taking a few risks. I’m going to dive right back into something that’s been a true PASSION in my life. I’m pretty good at most stuff I decide I want to do, and I happen to love working in real estate, but being on stage is what makes me light up. It fills my heart. With my heart feeling so, so broken right now, maybe putting myself out there can mend a shard or two of my heart. Time will help, I’m sure. The feelings I have so often that he’s still right here with me helps too, but I know that I’ll miss him deeply every single day until he returns to me. Little Thor is doing a lot of work around here, spreading his love around. He misses his big lug of a brother too, and I think they may still be communicating too. Sometimes I’ll think of Eddy and when I look at Thor he has his tongue sticking out. There are all kinds of little things like that that make me know that the Vail between the worlds of the living and the dead isn’t as heavy and restrictive as most people think it is.

I’m incredibly grateful that AK and I started our dialogues that have lead us to where we are right now. If feel like I’m growing at a pretty astounding rate. As I dive into spirituality, my mind feels open. I the impulse to be kind to strangers a lot more. I am coming to be really tuned in to my empath abilities. I’m very grateful for that. The more I learn about being an empath, it just checks so many boxes. I’m using this ability to better help my real estate clients. I’m using it to be a better friend. A better wife, mother, and sister. There are no limits, as I’m a firm proponent of lifetime learning.

I think if I hadn’t been going down this spiritual path of self discovery, self love, and self care, I’d be a much bigger mess. I’m still feeling the loss. I’ll sometimes have a memory pop up out of nowhere and it feels like someone has punched me, HARD, in the gut. It makes it hard to breathe. I have techniques and breathing that can help me. I can get up and do some exercise to get endorphins flowing. If this had happened a year ago, I’m pretty sure I’d be looking for answers at the bottom of a bourbon bottle. If it took 3 weeks of constant drunkenness, then that’s what I would have done. That’s not who I am anymore. I’m making healthy choices, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. I am going to take control of my life to find a way to build that happiness Eddy always wanted.

I’m proud to know that I’ll be starting Eddy’s Happiness Project. I’m going to spend a lot of time journaling. I’ll start each day by writing gratitudes. Then, I’ll make 3 bucket lists. I’ll have a short term bucket list, a long term bucket list, and an ongoing bucket list.

For example, my first item on my short term bucket list is auditioning for a couple plays with local theater companies. I think short term goals should be fairly easy enough to complete in 3-4 months.

My long term bucket list includes getting a speaking role on a TV show or movie. Even if I’m just there as an extra with a couple of lines, I’m into it. Most of these long term goals should be achievable in 1-2 years. I’ll put longer term goals too, like AK and I flying to Montana, renting a car, and hiking different trails all over the state for a month. I don’t know that we could make a month happen right now, but a few years down the road it should be easily doable if we are clear in our intent, ask the universe for what we want, and do the work it takes to get us there.

My ongoing bucket list will contain things like 5 workouts a week and eating on-plan 80% of the time. It will also show my dedication to my work commitments. That one is important, because I plan to buy myself gifts when I achieve milestones.

I’ll be sharing my results here quite frequently, so please follow along! If you’ve been looking to bring more happiness and joy into your life, this might be a great way to do it. All you need is journal, an open heart, and an open mind. Oh, and pens or pencils, I suppose.

Feel free to contact me at any time if I can be of any help to you!

If you’re trying to to bring yourself up from grief and/or depression, I want to help. Let’s be those rays of happy sunshine that breaks through the clouds of despair.

Wishing you love, light, and peace,

Selfish Mitch

Mitch Unboxes Her Summer 18 Fab Fit Fun Box. Is It The Best FFF Yet?

Spoiler alert: I think so. I still have my ipsy to unbox, but I’m trying to train myself to be a little more patient. Waiting for things falls under that category, yeah?

Tell us what you think in the comments. What’s the best part of this box? Also, I don’t have a discount code here because apparently 6 youtube views don’t make you an “influencer” (!!I’m Shocked!!)  but if you google you can find one. I think this one is worth it.

 

Peace, love, and primer. All the primer.

-Selfish Mitch

June 2018 Birchbox Unboxing by Selfish Mitch

All right, another gift from me to me! I think I was expecting a little more out of Birchbox since I’d heard such great things, but I reminded myself that it was $10 to try things I usually wouldn’t have the opportunity to try. I am not going to go out and buy full sizes of everything they send me. I’m just looking for a few products that I love and want to invest in.

Here ya go. Oh, and if you’d like me to review anything else, just let me know. I’m always up for it. I’d like to get my spiritual sister/blog partner/bff to do a review of something soon so I’m checking out things I can send her, so suggestions for either of us are appreciated.

-Love, light, and shimmery blush,

-Selfish Mitch

Oh, it’s not fine, Eczema Exposed.

By Selfish Mitch

Eczema Exposed “It’s Fine” Commercial

I’m linking to this commercial since they don’t have a share feature, probably because, as I’ve recently found, it’s being flamed on the internet. I’m not the only one that thinks it’s terrible.

It starts out with a young woman staring forlornly in a mirror in a tank top, scratching her red, patchy skin, cancelling plans on the phone and saying, “It’s just my eczema. It’s fine. It’s fine.”

Then we cut to a scene where she’s wearing a long sleeve shirt, maybe in her workplace or a library, itching again, and some dude looks at her with an expression that I read as “WTF,” but could be “Eww…” or “How you doin’, baby?” because I’m pretty bad at guessing what men are thinking. But she once again says, “Eczema, it’s fine.”

Then we transition to a scene at what appears to be an outdoor restaurant, and our sad skin sufferer is bundled up in a jean jacket. This is also where we realize Sis looks like a young Katherine Heigl but prettier (on the outside but I can assume on the inside as well).

Then her friend with a gorgeous complexion sits down at the table wearing a little tank top and asks Itchy Katherine Jr. if she’s hot, and of course we learn that it’s eczema and it’s fine. Of course. Well. The friend is NOT having it. She whips her tablet out before the server can even come by to see if they want wine. (I actually want wine just talking about this, FYI.)

The friend is all hyped about this commercial she saw for “Eczema Exposed,” and suggests that Hurting Heigl has a special kind of inflammatory dermatitis and she should go ask her doctor about this.

The patient in the commercial looks like, “Oh, wow! I’ve never heard of this before! I mean, I have to rearrange my personal life, my wardrobe, the co-workers who are willing to sit next to me, and everything else around this shitty disease, but it never occured to ask my doctor if there were any treatments around. I would have never thought to do any of my own research about my own condition. Thanks, Karen!” (You know that betch is named Karen.)

The complaints that most people have is that it’s annoying, that most people wouldn’t keep saying, “It’s fine (sigh.)” I have a different perspective. I am living with five different chronic illnesses. The ones that really keep me from living the life I’d love to have are Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. There were two days last week that I was essentially bedridden because of the swelling of my joints. Since I’m living this life, I have a different perspective.

I can’t tell you how many well meaning friends have said really stupid shit to me. I’m an intelligent, educated woman and I do research on random subjects for hours because it amuses me, so of course I’m always checking on new research and development relating to what’s going on in my body. I’m 42 years old, and I’ve been living with chronic illness for almost 1/4 of my life, and the thing about chronic illnesses is that there is no cure. There are remissions sometimes, but at this point, there is no cure. Therefore, when someone comes at me to tell me that I should try what their sister’s mom’s best friend’s dog sitter swears by, my gut reaction is to be hurt and a little bit offended. I don’t know everything about autoimmune; far from it, but I have a good grasp on the basics of diagnostic procedures and criteria, medications, and harmful and helpful holistic treatments, etc. The sad reality, though, is that doctors, while knowing 500 times more than what I know,don’t know what causes autoimmune disorders. They don’t even agree on how many different disorders there are, and they know that what works for one patient can send another into a severe flare. It’s just a frustrating situation all around, and as patients, we do a lot of research and trial and error (a shit-ton of error, TBH) both as prescribed by our doctors, and on our own.  Telling me that if I just tried probiotics I wouldn’t have this disease feels like you’re directly insulting my intelligence. I know you don’t mean it that way, but I can’t help the way I feel. And it’s not just you. Take your hurtful comment and add it to the ones we regularly receive from everyone else in our lives, and it gets old fast. Do you think that I haven’t done that research? Trust me, Babe, I could talk for over an hour about inflammatory foods, gut health, and give you a pretty well developed outline idea of some of the leading theories.

 

But have you tried..._ (2)

I also have my team of doctors; most of them specialists, who have completed at least 13 years of post-secondary education and different residencies and fellowships. I may do a great deal of research on my own, but what I know about the scientific aspects of my disorders will never come close what my specialists know. I doubt that the information you’re bringing me, even if it’s from a TV commercial for a new pill from a pharmaceutical company, isn’t going to be new information to me.

I’m fairly certain that at this point, you think I’m overreacting. I shouldn’t have my feelings hurt or be offended by people that are trying to help. If it only happened once in a while, it might not be so annoying. That’s simply not the case.

I’ve had friends tell me that marijuana cures Lupus. It doesn’t, but for some patients it can alleviate some of the symptoms. I’m all for legalization, but it’s not something that has been beneficial to me. Someone else told me that I need to do yoga. This falls under the, “Do you think that I have not tried that?” category. When I’m not in a flare, I actually love working out. It’s excellent therapy for me, mentally and physically. So yes, I’ve tried yoga. I do it on purpose when I’m able.

Another thing I do not require is your essential oils. Listen. I’m happy for you if essential oils work for you. I haven’t found them helpful beyond their pleasing aromas. Lavender smells quite nice and I do find it relaxing. However, I’ve had MLM oil salespeople tell me to ingest different oils or use them transdermally. Oils can actually be quite dangerous if you’re drinking them (yes, even just a drop or two) or letting them be absorbed through your skin, particularly if they have a bad reaction with pharmaceutical medications the patient is taking to literally save her life. Simply reading the pamphlet that came with your Young Living starter kit doesn’t qualify you to prescribe things to anyone.

I can’t believe that I haven’t gotten to multilevel marketing (MLM) friends yet. There are so many people who have told me that their upline’s friend was able to cure her thyroid condition with this miracle Arbonne or It Works! or Isagenix. I promise you…if an actual cure for a chronic disease was discovered, it would not be sold by a multi level marketing company. One of the most promising treatments that has come out recently to treat autoimmune disorders is a biologic, which runs up to $7500 per month. One thing you can take to the bank is that companies who create new, promising, life changing drugs for the chronically ill don’t sell them for $70 a month and make it a part time business opportunity for a soccer mom to reach #fianancialfreedom.

I can say that I personally feel better with the vitamin packets from Le-vel Thrive, but that’s purely anecdotal. Other vitamins, particularly those high in Vitamin C or containing echinacea can be harmful to me.  We don’t want to boost an immune system that is actively trying to kill me, thanks.

I had another friend tell me that I just need to get up at the same time every day, no matter how I feel, make my bed, and decide that it’s going to be a good day. Yes, let me give that a go after pain woke up up 8 times last night, my joints in my ankles, feet, and toes are so swollen and painful that I needed my husband to get me out of bed and let me hold on to him while I walked to the bathroom. My #1 concern on days like that should be throw pillows being perfectly placed. I get the power of positive thinking, and I listen to personal development videos and read books about mindset, but that’s not going to cut it with a disease that can make my immune system attack my joints, kidneys, liver, brain, or whatever else it feels like taking out.

I’m in a few facebook groups for people with chronic illnesses. It’s really helpful to have someone to talk to who gets it. We recently had a conversation about different things people have tried to sell us on. We call it “woo,” a general term for anecdotal evidence, old wives’ tales, hearsay, pseudoscience, and just plain crazy. Again, we understand that you mean well, but frankly, do better. Here are some of my favorites from that thread.

  • Do you really have a neurological disorder though? Aries tend to get headaches more than the other signs. (No comment necessary.)
  • There’s a parasite you can intentionally eat that will remove autoimmune disease. (The fuck?)
  • Bathing in malt vinegar once a week will cure celiac. (Again. What the fuck.)
  • The pain and muscle fatigue get better if you just push through it. (From a weightlifter friend. Our deep muscle fatigue has a different cause than yours, and requires different treatment. Taking this advice could land us in the hospital.”
  • If you accept Jesus into your heart you will be cured. (Funny, because there are lots of Christians, and people of every other faith, who die of chronic illness all the time.) The same person claimed that eating boiled cabbage would cure this patient. (So maybe it’s a combination of cabbage and Jesus? Is there a recipe?)
  • Prayer in general. If we are not religious people and you know this, this advice feels more like judgement than anything else.
  • Sleeping with onions in your socks. (OK but why?)
  • Juice Cleanses! (This can be dangerous for healthy people. It could put us in the hospital too.)
  • Reprogramming your brain with positive energy! You can walk on hot coals if you get your mind right! (Some of us can’t walk  across carpet.)
  • Going gluten free/dairy free/nightshade free/paleo etc. (Again. Works for some, but not for others. This is not really terrible advice, but if you think we haven’t tried it, you’re wrong. I personally do feel much better if I stay gluten free and limit dairy, sugar, and soy. That’s just me though.)
  • Just say NO to Big Pharma! All those pills you take are makig you sick! (Listen, we understand as well as anyone, if not better, how deeply problematic the pharmaceutical industry is. However, some of us are only alive because of Western medical science. If there were alternatives that worked as well as our prescriptions do,particularly without the expense and side effects, we’d be all over it.
  • You’d feel better if you lost some weight. (Yeah. We know. However, some of us are on medications that make us gain weight but keep us alive. Some of us aren’t ambulatory. Some of us have conditions like PCOS that make losing weight nearly impossible.)
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BRB I have to go eat some parasites to cure me. 

 

You can see how a constant stream of this could be annoying. Do you know what we’d love to hear though? Here are some ideas.

  • “How have you been feeling lately? I’ve been thinking of you.” (I personally think it’s nice when a religious friend says they’ve been praying for me, even though I don’t believe in prayer. If they do, it’s meaningful to them, so I appreciate it. Just don’t try to convert me. Other non-believers can be offended if you know they’re not religious and you bring it up, so it’s probably a good idea to simply ask them if they’re comfortable with you praying for them.
  • “Would you mind telling me more about ___________ (their chronic illness)? I feel like a lot of the information I’ve found online is confusing or conflicting.” This can show us that you’ve tried to learn about what we’re going through without trying to push the remedy du jour at us. We’re not going to judge you for saying the information online is confusing or conflicting, especially if we’re dealing with autoimmune disorder, because theories are all over the place.
  • “Do you want to come over and watch a movie this weekend at my place? ”
    • or
  • “I was thinking it might be fun if I brought us some lunch and we hung out at your place and just relaxed.”  This is so lovely, really. Having a chronic illness can be really isolating. For me, personally, I am married, have a child, and two businesses. I miss going out and living it up with my friends, and just having that girl time connection or spending time with couples or groups of friends that my husband and I used to hang out with with, but my priorities have to be keeping a roof over my head. Going out on the town sounds fun, but it might be too draining for me right now. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss my friends. I have one girlfriend who invites me over to just hang out with her and her 2 year old daughter. We’ll talk, snack, watch movies, or play on Snapchat making videos with the kiddo. That kind of social interaction charges my batteries instead of draining them.
  • “Is there anything I can do to help? Can I bring you dinner one night, take your kids to the community pool when I take mine so you can get a break? Can I drive you to a doctor’s appointment for your next procedure?” Several of us have minor procedures fairly regularly that involve partial anesthesia and we need someone to drive us or we have to suck it up and deal with that 11″ needle in our spine unmedicated. Caveat to this: don’t offer unless you’re willing to do the thing and you actually want to. We don’t want you to resent us, and it’s perfectly OK if you can’t do anything to help us. We get it-you’re busy too. You have limits on your time, energy, and finances, and we totally understand.
  • “I saw a really annoying commercial about eczema the other day. The lady kept saying, “I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. Is that the kind of eczema you have? How do you treat yours? How does it affect you? Does it flare and go into remission, or is it pretty constant? Also, you shouldn’t have to sweat it out in a jacket because of a medical condition. I love you and I don’t want you to feel like you have to hide with me, but if you’re more comfortable covering up I understand that too. Just don’t feel that you need to do so on my behalf.
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Much like your toddler, I can entertain myself with Snapchat for an hour. Me+a toddler+Snapchat=you can clean out your closets, your gutters, whatever. I have this covered. Even better, I can have all the screen time I want because I’m a grown ass woman.

That last one is how Karen should have started the conversation in the restaurant, if you ask me. It would let blondie know that she cares about her and she wants to learn more.

The reality is, we just want to be treated like people. Intelligent, whole, educated people. We LOVE that you’re thinking of us and wanting to learn more about our conditions. I have friends I used to be really close to that have never asked me about my illnesses. That’s OK. Some people aren’t meant to stay in our lives forever. That’s just the way life goes, and I have nothing but love for them and wish them well. But for those of you who are loyal, loving badasses and are still in our lives and read through this whole thing, THANK YOU. From the bottom of my black, sarcastic heart, I love you for reading this and wanting to learn.

Love, light, and parasites,

-Selfish Mitch

 

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