Shampoo, Deodorant, and a Sore Head and Heart

This year I made a New Year’s resolution to not rely on painkillers to deal with my headache bouts. This meant that when I had quite severe migraines stabbing into my skull, or that fuzzy, dull aching head that is just plain annoying – from January 1st, I did not reach for the two Nurofens, and did not go for the two Panadol every four hours. As for the really heavy stuff, like the codeine, the Imagran and the Sandomigran – out of the question. The purpose of this was to stop polluting my body with drugs, to lessen my reliance on (and thus enhance the effect of) painkillers, and to force myself to look for alternative methods whenever I thought that there was one.

Along with my headaches, I have also suffered from mild depression over the last 5 or so years – it has not been diagnosed, but it doesn’t really have to. It is just those bouts of dark days that so many people suffer from. Those days when sitting at the base of the shower seems like the most comfortable option, and life doesn’t seem to want to offer up anything remotely resembling joy.

I asked the osteopath last time I visited him, “Do you think my headaches cause my depression, or my depression causes my headaches?” This is of course a stupid chicken and egg conundrum: regular pain in the head can make you feel like shit, but feeling like shit can cause stress, tension, and pains in your head. He pretty much could only answer in the same, clichéd, unhelpful manner.

So, January was basically one big headache. Like, every day a stinking headache. And besides two weekends of hangovers, where I gave in and took a couple of paracetomol, for the full month I fought off the pretty justified urge to pop some drugs. I also, felt pretty crap. Unmotivated, not quite myself, not quite there.

February and March, and April came round, and quite suddenly my headaches were not happening… Why? I was very happy, I felt good. Like happy-in-life good. Just… content.

So, I wasn’t having headaches, and I wasn’t feeling depressed. So, was it because I didn’t have headaches that I felt so good? Or was it because I felt so good that I wasn’t getting headaches?

I have no answer to this, but I have an interesting observation to share with you.

In January this year, I started using solid shampoo that I bought from Lush – a vegan, cruelty-free shop of naturally made cosmetics, soaps, shampoos and perfumes etc. I mainly wanted to cut down on the packaging in my life, and shampoo that came in a big block wrapped in paper seemed like an awesome idea. It is also all-natural and not tested on animals, and basically – to give you an idea of how long it lasted – I bought a $13 block in January, and it lasted until the end of April. (I wash my hair every two days, and it makes my hair very nice.)

At the same time, on my package-free life shopping spree, I also purchased a crystal deodorant. If you haven’t heard of these, they are a stick or lump of a naturally occurring crystal that kill off bacteria, or stop it from growing or something-something. So, when you have clean underarms, you wet the top of your crystal stick and apply. It stops bacteria from growing (which would normally cause body odour) and I’m serious, I have REALLY put it to the test, and it is very impressive. It doesn’t smell, and your underarms don’t get all wet when you sweat, it’s just dry and amazing. Also, I have barely worn down a centimetre of my crystal stick – I think it could last for easily two years. Think of all the deodorant packaging you are saving! (I can’t really go on about this enough.)

Now, the main motivation to stop using conventional deodorant and shampoo was to lesson my impact on the environment, but for February, March and April, I was basically headache free, and possible more importantly – happy.

Awesome? Yes. Coincidence? Possibly.

BUT – when you think about the chemicals and unnatural substances that you are pouring into your skin EVERY DAY, through shampoos, conditioners, and deodorants – could it be that my body is rejoicing at the respite from this unnatural stuff seeping straight into my pores, and into my blood stream?

Obviously I am no expert, but I just thought this was an interesting observation. It could be purely coincidental, but for now, coincidence or not – I am grateful. And yeah, I could be just clutching at an obscure straw here, but after you put up with something for a long time, spend many hours wondering what you could do to fix it – a strange occurrence like this is something worth noticing, and sharing.

Think about what you put on your skin people, because everything has an effect … We are natural organisms at the whim of everything around us – so, as with all natural life-forms on this planet, natural is always best.

Wanting others to fail, and feeling guilty (immediately) after.

I watched this guy do the Rubik’s cube in front of me. Like really, he DID the Rubik’s cube, got all the colours lined up, made it all pretty and co-ordinated. He was a genius. Amazing. I had been trying for so long. But couldn’t do it. I felt some elation, some pride, some great admiration for this man, taking on this challenge, and absolutely smashing it.

But inside, I felt a little spark of jealousy spring forth, a little dash of anger at myself – why couldn’t I complete this task? Why couldn’t I be successful? Why couldn’t I succeed at this THING that I had put my mind to?

And then the revulsion at my feelings; why can’t I be happy for other people’s success? Why do I want to hear that other people have failed where I have also failed?

The above never really happened. I made that up. Sorry. But I was trying to simplify something that has long bothered me: teaching. I struggled at being a teacher. It was hard. It was taxing. It mentally bruised me, it tired me out.

In my first years, and now, I listen to people who have begun teaching tell of their stress-free transition, their joy, their EASE at their new profession, and I ask myself, WHY? WHY couldn’t I find it easy? Why couldn’t I be a GOOD teacher? WHY couldn’t I be one of those people?! Why was it hard for me – and what was wrong with me?

And when I try to explain – people say “maybe it’s not the job for you, maybe it’s not your thing” and that makes me feel even worse. Because, hey – I think it IS my thing, I think I’m meant to be a teacher. I think it’s what I’m meant to do in this world, or one of the things I really CAN do… And obviously I can’t blame people for trying to make me feel better about my struggle with teaching. Of course they’re going to try to make me feel as though there’s something better for me to do out there.

And what was so hard about it, I hear you say? Well, everyone’s experience is different – but I completed my Dip Ed. while I taught, I wrote essays and studied, whilst being thrown into the deep end, teaching full time, for the first time – I hadn’t had any placement, I hadn’t had any training. But you know what? That was okay, I learnt every day, but noone came in and watched me, noone supervised my classes. I needed support, and yet I was too proud to seek it. I hate criticism, and that is a clear downfall in my character. I thought, I can do anything that anyone else can do – I’ll just work hard, and I’ll get through this, without letting on that I’m struggling.

There’s a lot of pressure in teaching, and if you really care, there’s even more. I put in the hours, I put in the love, I put in my heart. And over three years, I got a LOT better, but it was the hardest three years of my life.

My life became very darkened. I felt like shit, and I didn’t realise anything was wrong until I came out the other side of this dark tunnel, and realised that I had been walking along without the lights on. “Oh!” I said, “I remember what it’s like to be happy.” That’s not necessary teaching, that was just me, in a situation that needed a lot of time, a lot of organisation, and a lot of care for all those souls that you were touching every day.

So anyway, last night, I talked to a new teacher. And I’m sure he will be fine. Not everyone fails, not everyone struggles like I did. But isn’t it sad that I like to hear people say “You know what? Teaching was hard, I really struggled.” I like to think that there are other people sailing me with me in this boat, not just me. Isn’t it sad that some people who actually really care, and love the impact they can make in the classroom, burn out in a few years, or burn out later after ten, or twenty years?

Someone attempting a Rubik’s Cube should be positive – they should believe that they can achieve the ultimate goal of lining up those colours. But realistically – they may struggle, they may need time, they may need help. I definitely don’t really want anyone to fail… I want to know that any new teacher will get the support they need and good working conditions while they get their head around this very important job, and find their feet – always looking after those they teach, but importantly, looking after themselves.

A Dark Day

I cannot put a finger on what makes me feel down. Today, I did not get out of ‘the wrong side of the bunk’, nor was I hormonally emotional, or have any logical reason for not feeling happy. I had a good sleep, but I certainly think that I was zapped after our big day yesterday over the windy ‘hospitales’ route.

We set out, and my legs were not good. But they were definitely fine enough to walk. I plugged in my ReginaPod and even she wasn’t lifting my spirits. She made me feel worse. Jamiroquai didn’t work either, not even Coldplay’s Viva la Vida made me feel any better. I couldn’t smile. I walked along, thinking of how nice it would be to crawl into a cave and lie in the foetal position for a while. Sometimes I whacked my walking stick into trees, or smashed pinecones as far as I could down the mountain.

Who knows why people have days like this? I wondered if it was due to the big dinner I had had the night before, or dairy products, or the few glasses of wine I had drunk before bed. I had a mild headache – could that be linked? Who knows?

We struggled today to cover the kilometres. It took us 5 hours to walk 10km (other days, we walk this in 2 hours). The road was steep and difficult, up and down, and with our dodgy legs still recovering from yesterday, we went very slowly. But we plodded along, took photos, and stopped to take in the views. It was really a very beautiful leg of the journey.

I don’t think it’s easy to explain depression – or just the feeling of being ‘down’. Today I was down, but tomorrow I will most probably be back to my chirpy, happy self. This Camino has uplifted me, with the exercise, the forever changing scenery and fun people we meet along the way, and the exhilaration of always going somewhere, always achieving something. I have had a string of weeks of only feeling good. No dark days.

But how do you explain to your partner, mum or friend, that today, you just don’t feel yourself? How will it not be taken as a complaint, a whinge, a sook? Physically, you might feel quite fine – but the inside of your head feels like it has been covered with a dark blanket. Saying you feel ‘down’ can make people think you are being melodramatic or making light of people who suffer from chronic depression, and saying you need a hug makes you seem emotional or soft.

So you keep it inside to avoid the trouble of all of the above, and decide to deal with it yourself, but knowing that the people you love might think you’re ‘in a mood’.

Now I sleep – and hopefully – blanket on, blanket off.