Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Where I've Been

Well I'm back - and hopefully for good!  I cannot believe I haven't posted on here in over four weeks, that is the longest I've ever gone without sharing something on here in the almost four years that I've been blogging (and hopefully it'll be the longest I'll ever go!).  I wish I could say that I've been gone so long because I've been doing so many fun things that I just haven't had time for this space, but unfortunately I've had to take some time off because of my health.

I realized that to start up again after such a long break I wanted to take the time to explain to all of you what's been going on with me.  As I've mentioned on here before I'm a deeply private person so opening up on here about my private life isn't always the easiest thing for me, in fact it's actually taken me some time to write this post because I don't love talking about myself and have been putting it off.  However, I think that when I started my blog I did make an agreement to share things on here and I always want to be completely transparent with everyone who is kind enough to take some time out of their day to follow along here.  I also feel like after being gone for a while I owe an explanation to those of you who have stuck around through it all.

I love that when I need it to be this space is an outlet for me and I can share what is going on in my life with a group of people who have done nothing, but support me, which means more to me than you'll ever know.  I also think that it's important to use my platform from time to time to raise awareness for what life with chronic illness is like.  I started this space as a "break" from my "real life" - doctors' appointments, medical tests, medications that are sometimes worse than the illness itself, etcetera.  However, I think that I do need to use the voice I've developed to speak up for those who are in the same situation that I am who can't and give you all a glimpse into what life is like when you feel like, for lack of a better word, shit, all the time.

I think that even though it's hard for me to write about I'm going to try to share more personal posts on here a little more frequently than every six months.  I think it's important to show what's going on behind the scenes beyond my favorite skincare products and what clothes I'm wearing.  Not that I won't be sharing plenty of that because let's get real that's what I love and what I started this space for, but I'm just going to be a little more liberal with sprinkling in posts like this, which I hope is something that will interest all of you.

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So now that I've gotten all of that off my chest it's time for me to explain what's been going on that's kept me from here the last few weeks and what's been going on in my life the last few months that led up to it.  If you're new around here, don't remember what I'm talking about, or just want to refresh your memory you can checkout this post which is a big life update from November and a smaller update at the end of this post from December.

For a little recap, incase you don't want to reread the post from November, I have suffered from two medical conditions for years.  The first condition is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD, which is also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, CRPS).  RSD is "is a chronic neuro-inflammatory disorder. It is classified as a rare disorder by the United States Food and Drug Administration.  CRPS occurs when the nervous system and the immune system malfunction as they respond to tissue damage from trauma. The nerves misfire, sending constant pain signals to the brain. The level of pain is measured as one of the most severe on the McGill University Pain Scale" (RSDSA) and I've had that for thirteen plus years.  The second condition is Crohn's Disease which is an autoimmune "lifelong inflammatory bowel disease [which causes] parts of the digestive system [to] get swollen and have deep sores called ulcers," and I have had that for the last nine years (WebMD).

Then in April 2016 I began suffering from migraines, which very quickly became chronic migraines as they went from a few days a month to a few days a week to every single day.  And finally this past September I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Rheumatoid Arthritis is "a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than just your joints. In some people, the condition also can damage a wide variety of body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels.  An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body's tissues." (Mayo Clinic).

The chronic migraines leave me with terrible headaches, light sensitivity, nausea and more.  Nevertheless, I consider myself fortunate that they didn't develop until about a month before I graduated from college.  While they're difficult to deal with at least I was able to get through almost all of college without them (and I'm always looking for the positive side of things 😉)!  I had a rough nine months dealing with the migraines, with the month of February 2017 being the worst as I had a no break from a mind numbing headache for more than thirty days.  However at the end of February I had my first round of Botox injections for the migraines and the results were literally life changing and within a few days I was completely headache free! While I was still dealing with all of my other health issues not having an incredibly terrible migraine was so amazing.  I was lucky enough to have my first treatment last for a full eight weeks and I maybe had two headaches in that time, which was incredible for me. Unfortunately after the eight weeks it did start to wear off and you have to wait a full twelve weeks between injections, but thankfully the migraines I had in those four weeks I had left until my next injection appointment weren't as bad as my pre-Botox headaches.  I have since had my second round of injections and while they aren't working as well as the first round did I still see a huge improvement to what my headaches were like prior to Botox, which is great.

I wish I could say that the Rheumatoid Arthritis (R.A.) treatment has been going as smoothly as the migraine treatment, but that has not been the case.  The R.A. gives me relentless joint pains and stiffness (including severe TMJ).  I already take Humira for my Crohn's disease, which can also treat R.A., but it does not completely treat mine so I needed to add in another medication.  I tried one that made me really sick (I was so nauseous I couldn't eat or really get out of bed) so we moved onto Methotrexate, which is used to treat R.A. that hasn't responded to other medications.  Methotrexate is a very strong medication that really takes a toll on your body and is a medication in which you can get worse before you get better, which has been the case for me.

My doctor prescribed Methotrexate as an injectable and there are two types of injectable Methotrexate, one with a preservative and one without.  The first dose I recieved of Methotrexate at my rheumatologist's office was the one with the preservative, after leaving the office my face and tongue began to swell and my throat started to close up.  I was able to force some Benadryl down my throat and was rushed to the hospital where I had to spend the whole day under observation.  This form of Methotrexate stays in your body for one week so for an entire week after the initial injection my throat would spontaneously close up, but thankfully the doctor at the ER sent me home with all of the medications they would give me there so I did not have to keep going back everyday.  After this ordeal I had to undergo allergy testing to determine if I was allergic to Methotrexate or the preservative in Methotrexate and it turned out that I was allergic to the preservative so I now take an injection of preservative free Methotrexate once a week and have been for the last several months.

As I mentioned above Methotrexate takes a toll on your body and has side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness, just to name a few.  In addition to these it can damage your organs so there is a whole list of symptoms I have to keep an eye out for.  Additionally for the first three months I had to get blood work once a month and was just told this past week that I can now get bloodwork every three months 😊.  Each week when I do the injection I feel really sick for several days, but as the months are going on the side effects are beginning to lessen, which is good.  The other issue with R.A. is that it can affect so many different parts of your body so because of it I have been having to go to so many more doctors to get things such as my eyes and heart checked out.

Both the Humira and Methotrexate are immunosuppressants, which means I have to be very careful with germs, I get sick very easily, and it takes me a long time to get better when I do get sick.  This is where my problem for the last few weeks comes from.  The third week in May I developed a stomach bug and it stuck around for almost four weeks.  Thankfully I wasn't vomiting, but I had extreme nausea (which nothing was helping to get rid of), stomach pains, exhaustion, and just generally felt very run down.  I was also having a really hard time sleeping, which was just making everything worse.  I had little to no desire to do anything and simply posting on Instagram would take up all of my energy for the day.  Due to the way I was feeling I just had to take a break from blogging because I could not even write a blog post I felt so sick.

Finally at the end of last week I started to feel better (which felt like a miracle) and have been spending some time on everything I fell behind on in the past month.  I really couldn't do much of anything so I have had so much stuff to catch up on.  I am such a Type-A personality so not being able to do basically anything at all was making me incredibly stressed and anxious so it was nice to be able to relieve some of that and get some stuff done.  I also decided that I wanted to wait until I was feeling completely stomach bug free to start posting on here again so I wouldn't have to start and stop and I can thankfully say that yesterday was finally that day!

***

I'm sorry that this post landed up being such a long one, I didn't really intend it to be this much, but there was really no way for me to explain things without explaining everything.  While I am stomach bug free (and so happy about that!) I am still dealing with a lot, as I'm sure you can tell, so I can't make any promises that I won't have to take a break again, but I can say that I will do everything I can to make any breaks much shorter than this one has been.  I also want to give you all the heads up that my goal for myself right now is to post on here three days a week and possibly four if I'm having a good week (so I hope there are lots of four post weeks!).  I am so excited to be back to creating content and have some great posts and fun collaborations coming up that I can't wait to share with all of you!  Also if there's any posts that you would like me to do please let me know!

Thank you so much to everyone who has stuck around during my break and for reading to the end of this crazy long post.  I hope I was able to give you some insight into what's going on in my life and if you have any questions, as always, please feel free to ask them below.

  
                
Make sure to add me on Snapchat - @kthomp22!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Seeing Green

Dress: Gap  |  Shoes: Sam Edelman  |   Sunglasses: Fendi (similar here)  |  Handbag: Tory Burch (similar here)  |  Earrings: Kendra Scott  |  Necklace: Kendra Scott

I fell in love with this dress a few weeks ago when I saw it at Gap.  Not only was it cute, but it was so soft and comfy too.  Once my Mom saw me try it on she loved it too and we both landed up getting one (she got hers in Navy) because we knew they'd be perfect for summer.  Fast forward a few weeks to when I was in NYC for a blogger brunch and I made a quick stop into Gap before getting to the restaurant because I saw they were having one of their great weekend sales.  My Mom and I hadn't stopped talking about how much we loved our dresses and they had them in every color!  I landed up picking my Mom up dresses in green, pink, gray, and black, and getting myself the dress in pink and gray too.

The reason we both love this dress and it works well for both of us is that it's a simple, yet classic piece.  It's incredibly versatile and can be dressed up or dressed down and styled in a million different ways.  You can also wear them for the majority of the year styling it different ways for spring, summer, and fall to make it work for each season.  I purchased them with summer in mind because this will be so easy throw on on those sweltering summer days, but will keep me comfortable and breezy thanks to its fit.  I know that my Mom and I will be wearing these a ton (don't worry never at the same time 😉) and it's a great piece for anyone's closet.

One last tip before I go, try to find when Gap is having a sale and purchase this dress then because it will be a total steal!  Just don't wait too long because the sales associates told me they're selling out fast!

  
                
Make sure to add me on Snapchat - @kthomp22!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Favorites

I have been obsessing over these espadrilles since I found them on Pinterest a few days ago.  They are so cute and so perfect for summer.  I'm also thinking that they would be super comfy and that I need to get myself a pair!  They also happen to be on sale right now so I think it's meant to be!

Favorite Sweet Treat Pink and Gold Cactus Cake
The lovely ladies over at Best Friends for Frosting created this ridiculously cute cake that I am loving!  This cake would be great for anyone celebrating a summer birthday (who loves pink of course) or for a summer party, BBQ, etc.  For the instructions on how to make one for yourself check out this post.

Favorite Celebrity Look Lily Donaldson in Dior at Loveless premiere in Cannes, France
I loved this look that Lily Donaldson is wearing at the Cannes Film Festival the minute I saw it.  It's such a feminine look, which is always a favorite of mine.  I'm also really loving how she looks like a chic French ballerina.  I definitely want to find a (less sheer) version of this dress next time I have an event to go to!

This adorable backpack is from Lauren Conrad's latest LC Lauren Conrad Handbag Collection at Kohl's.  I've been seeing cute little backpack handbags like this everywhere recently, which has left me wanting one.  This sweet little backpack also happens to be in my favorite color, which is what really left me swooning! (Bonus: It's also on sale right now too!)

Favorite DIY Abstract Artwork
I have been really big into abstract art lately so it's no surprise that I pinned this tutorial the minute I saw it.  Fran over at Fall for DIY shares how to make your own painting, just like this, here.  I haven't painted in forever, but next time I'm in the mood to I want to make an abstract piece to go with the gallery wall I've been planning for my bedroom!

What are your favorites this Friday?

  
                
Make sure to add me on Snapchat - @kthomp22!

Today I'm linking up with Friday FavoritesFriday FavoritesFab Favoritesand Five on Friday.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Neutrals in New York

Shirt: J.Crew (similar here)  |  Jacket: Gap  |  Jeans: PAIGE  |  Shoes: Sam Edelman  |  Sunglasses: Fendi (similar here)  |  Handbag: Tory Burch (similar here)  |  Earrings: Kendra Scott

It's no secret that I love a neutral palette, especially when it comes to fashion!  I wore this look last weekend to New York City to meet up with some blogger babes for brunch and exploring.  These shoes are not only cute, but were so comfy to walk around in all day.  Also this jacket is perfect for this time of year!  These pictures were taken on a balcony at The Met, which had the most stunning views.  Unfortunately it was a very overcast day, but we were very fortunate and the rain held off until we were almost done with our day.

In addition to taking in these gorgeous views we stopped in the museum to see the Rei Kawakubo/Commes de Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit.  The exhibit features numerous avant-garde fashion pieces that are truly works of art.  If you're someone that enjoys high fashion and artistic pieces then it is definitely a must see!  We also made sure to get in a few different places to eat and even got Sprinkles for dessert.  It was such a great day and I'm already dying to get back into the city and am planning my next visit to The Met!

What are your favorite things to do in NYC?

  
                
Make sure to add me on Snapchat - @kthomp22!

Today I'm linking up with Hello Monday, #HowISpringWeekending, and MIMM.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Beauty Behind the Blog: Brighter, Darling

Today I'm back with my another installment of Beauty Behind the Blog with an interview of Steffanie from Brighter, Darling!
Name: Steffanie
Age: 31

THE BASICS
Who taught you about beauty?
It all started when I was probably four years old and began watching my mom apply her gold-ribbed tube of Estee Lauder lipstick and Maybelline Great Lash mascara. I come from a Cuban family and growing up, my mother (and grandmother) would never ever leave the house without their makeup done. Even if just to go to the grocery store.

What is your favorite thing about beauty?
I find applying my makeup to be relaxing - almost like a ritual. I love doing it every morning. I'd have to say my favorite thing is seeing how just a touch of concealer or a pretty lip color can transform a person's confidence.

Do you have a favorite beauty blogger?
I've been reading beauty blogs and watching YouTube tutorials since Makeup Geek's early years in 2007! I'd have to say my most trusted blogging/vlogging resources are Tati- Glam Life Guru (YouTube), Casey Holmes (YouTube), Thirteen Thoughts, Collective Beauty, and The Beauty Look Book.

What is your best beauty secret?
I have no secrets! I share them all on Brighter, Darling, haha. I'd have to say my favorite beauty tip is to start using Retin A (or a retinol) ASAP. It's an acne and wrinkle-fighting powerhouse product. To go hand in hand with retinol, find a sunscreen that works for you and wear it every day. It took me years, but I've been hooked on Elta MD SPF 41 or Elta MD SPF 46 (both work equally well for me).

Do you create any DIY beauty products?
I don't anymore, but I used to use straight ground cinnamon as a facial scrub when I was in high school. That was a bad idea. So was straight rubbing alcohol as a toner. Lessons learned, people. Stay away from the kitchen cabinet.

What is your favorite natural beauty product?
In terms of skin care, I'd have to say the Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask is amazing for normal/combo/oily skin. It's a beta hydroxy acid, which means it's oil-soluble, and really refines skin texture with natural ingredients. For color, I have to give it to my go-to Holy Grail lip color by BITE Beauty. I'm obsessed with their Matte Crème Lip Crayon in Leche - a beige peach pink. It's a staple in my purse.

SKIN
What is your skin type?
Oily, dehydrated and sensitive. Basically, the most complicated skin type ever. It's really delightful.

What is your basic skincare routine?
I've been following a K Beauty routine for a few months now and it's been life changing for my skin. Yes, K Beauty routines are a bit more intense, but the products focus on hydration via water-infused products. My face has never been smoother or more balanced. The routine is anything but basic but truly doesn't take me more than five minutes in the morning or evening. The gist of it goes like this: cleanse with CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser, tone with Son & Park Beauty Water, use CosRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, use Koh Gen Do Oriental Plants Lotion I, use Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum (AM only), seal it in with a moisturizer. For mornings, I use the Elta MD SPF 41 or Elta MD SPF 46. For evenings, I use Koh Gen Do All in One Moisture Spa Gel - a must try for oily skin!

What is your biggest skin issue?
As someone with oily skin, my biggest issues are texture and acne.

What are your must have skincare product?
I took a break from using my Retin A a couple of years ago and I noticed a dramatic change (for the worse) in the texture of my skin. I've been using Retin A since I was 21 and I'm almost 32 now. I credit any age compliments to my oily skin (gotta be good for something) and Retin A usage.

What is your favorite skincare splurge?
Vitamin C is not only a great antioxidant to protect the skin from aging but it's also brightening. It helps correct any acne hyperpigmentation I suffer from. I recently splurged on the Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum after trying quite a few other affordable C serums. I noticed an improvement in my skin in just a week and a little goes a long way. It also is said to last longer than standard C serums in the pipet packaging because it's protected from oxidation. 

What is the first thing you do when you get a breakout?
A makeup artist friend recommended the Natura Bisse Stabilizing Cleansing Mask and it's SO very worth it! It's not for the faint of heart, so normal/dry skins, keep reading, this isn't going to be your thing. Normal-combo-oily peeps, this is a must buy. The tube is huge for the amount you need so don't fret; it will last you forever. Around that time of the month, I'll have to apply this mask like a beard along my chin/jawline. It's very attractive because I look like Santa Claus. If I use this the week before my period for no more than 15 minutes, those pesky breakouts stay far away. 

MAKEUP
What is your everyday makeup look?
My look is usually a sunkissed bronzey glow. I definitely wear a full face of makeup daily, but I don't want it to appear that way. Blend, blend, blend. I use a medium coverage satin finish foundation, concealer under the eyes, a bronzer, some sort of peachy blush, a golden highlight, a bronzey eyeshadow, lots of mascara, a full brow, and a peachy nude lip.

What is your go to makeup look when you go out?
Everything basically stays the same, but I glam up the eyes big time. Take the look above and add a black winged liner, some fluttery flash lashes, smoke out the lower lash line with a dark brown shadow and use that same dark brown through the crease. I'll also add more bronzer and a swipe of gloss. I am not a big fan of matte lips. 

What are your must have makeup products?

What is your favorite makeup splurge?
I'm such a sucker for eye makeup - it's ridiculous. I just bought a Tom Ford Eyeshadow Quad and nearly checked myself into a mental institution. 

What is your best makeup trick?
This comes from an interview I did with Charlotte Tilbury herself and I completely agree with her: women don't play up the eyes enough! Eyes are the window to our souls and they're so expressive. A little makeup can do wonders to give us a brighter, fresher or sultrier appearance. And don't be shy with the mascara. 

HAIR
What is your hair type?
Normal/dry, thick/coarse.

What is your basic hair care routine?
I only wash my hair twice a week. I alternate with a purple shampoo/conditioner to keep my blonde hair ashy and a gentle (sulfate free) shampoo/conditioner to keep it hydrated.

What is your biggest hair issue?
Keeping my blonde hair ashy! I'm naturally a brunette with Italian/Cuban heritage, so even though I'm a light brunette, it pulls brassy very quick if I don't stay on top of it.

What are your must have hair products?
My hairdresser convinced me to try a few new products to help maintain my blonde and I'm OBSESSED! If you haven't found a purple shampoo/conditioner you love, try the new JOICO Color Balance Purple Shampoo and the Kenra Intense Brightening Treatment. It WILL dye your shower, so rinse it very well - but you'll have fabulous non-brassy hair.

What is your favorite hair care splurge?
I definitely splurge on hair styling products more than shampoo/conditioner. I love the IGK Texture Spray (it's intense but amazing for beach hair and volume), the Goldwell Kerasilk Rich Protective Oil (for shine/hydration) and drybar The Sheriff Hairspray (it smells amazing and has just the right amount of hold).

How do you style your hair everyday?
The first day after I wash my hair, it's straight. Second and third, I curl it with a wand or curling iron and it stays that way until the next wash. If I make it to day four, it's up in a fluffy messy bun.

How do you style your hair when you're going out?
Whether it's straight or curled/waved, I always add a little tease to the roots around the sides of my head to give a little volume. Because I have thick hair, it can lay a bit flat since it weighs probably 30 lbs.

What is your best hair trick?
Don't be afraid to tease! Whenever I curl my hair, I not only tease a little bit at the roots on the sides of my head, but I'll lightly tease the ends upwards. It gives the curls some texture and extra hold.


BATH AND BODY
What is your basic body care routine?
I threw away my loofah years ago and use a Salux Cloth I found on Amazon. It's a great way to exfoliate the skin and helps keep my self-tanner from getting patchy. I also love to moisturize with Soap and Glory The Righteous Butter Body Lotion (in the pump bottle).

What is your must have body product(s)?
A good self-tanner and the Soap and Glory The Righteous Butter Body Lotion.

What is your favorite body product splurge?
Self-tanner. I just can't find one at the drugstore that doesn't smell like poop, turn me orange or wear off evenly. I've used the St. Tropez one for years, but literally just ordered the Loving Tan formula. Stay tuned for my thoughts on that on the blog soon.

What is your basic approach to nutrition and dieting?
I suffer from thyroid autoimmune diseases - I test positive for both Grave's and Hashimoto's antibodies. This means my weight fluctuates up to 30 lbs really quickly without any warning. I could work out 7 days a week and still put on weight. Or I could sit and eat bagels all day and lose 10 lbs. It's really up to my thyroid. I do take medicine for this, but ever since I was diagnosed seven years ago, I also tested positive for a gluten sensitivity/allergy. So I've followed a gluten-free diet. Because I miss gluten-based foods, I increased my protein intake to alleviate any hunger pangs. 

What is your current workout routine?
I've always liked to work out, but since discovering my thyroid issues, it's even more important. I stick to cardio at least three days a week - rotating between Zumba, spin class or the elliptical (I hate running). I also enjoy a little yoga and lightweight strength training 1-2x/week. I don't freak out if I put on 10 lbs or lose 10 lbs anymore. I've learned that my body is always going to fluctuate and it's out of my control. As long as I'm doing the best I can and my doctor says I'm doing ok, then I have to be ok. Love what you've got!

A huge thank you to Steffanie for sharing a look into her beauty routine!  Do you use any of the same products?  Let me know below! 

  
                
Make sure to add me on Snapchat - @kthomp22!

Today I'm linking up with Friday FavoritesFab FavoritesOh Hey Friday!, and Five on Friday.
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