How The Soul Can Become Punch Drunk
This is the story of how my soul became punch drunk. 2016 has been a one-of-a-kind year so far. In many ways, this has been the worst year of my life. In other ways it’s actually been the best, most enlightening year of my life. I guess that’s how things tend to happen if you can manage to seek the good in the midst of shit. It’s like what people say – there can be no light without darkness, no good without evil. Sometimes it takes a hard, painful experience to truly realize how precious and amazing life is.
Let me back up a little. I’m Ali Daniel (hello, hello!) and I started this blog to chronicle my journey to finding health, happiness and ultimately myself (whatever that means) through trial and error and lots (and lots) of reading. Why did I embark on this “journey”? Well, for many of the same reasons that others, including maybe you, have.
I was tired of days passing and not feeling like anything happened. I felt like life was flying by and I was just watching, helplessly unable to slow it down. I felt content, but not fulfilled (again, whatever that means). It wasn’t something I could easily describe or put my finger on. There wasn’t anything specific I could blame or say “This is what’s wrong.” I just felt like there was more to life, more out there to experience that I just wasn’t doing. Now, I’m saying all of this in past tense, not because I’ve discovered the secret to life here (sorry, guys!), but because I have moved past these feelings. I have progressed to a point where I feel in control of my life, my time, my experiences. I’ve identified (some) of the things that make me feel bored, stuck, annoyed, tired, helpless, lost, depressed, disconnected and I do my best to avoid them. And I’ve gotten better at identifying some of the things that make me feel good, connected, at ease, confident, energized, safe, excited, relaxed, and “in the flow,” and I do my very best to turn towards those things.
It’s an ongoing process that will be something I work on for the rest of my life because I am always changing, the people around me and the world are always changing, and I will need to adapt. It’s not a process with an end point, but it does get easier with practice. Happiness & health gets easier with practice.
Now, back to all the things I was feeling earlier this year. Yeah, I was feeling stuck and unfulfilled, but I wasn’t unhappy. I loved my family, friends, boyfriend and our little Santa Monica apartment. I had an amazing boss and a job that challenged me. So I was happy, but like I said, something felt like it was missing. I can say this in retrospect, but at the time, I don’t think I would’ve even said that. I think it was just some niggling feeling in the back of my mind, a stirring in my soul that I couldn’t identify. Almost like a subconscious yearning for more, maybe? Regardless, I was ignoring all of those thoughts and feelings and just pushing on through life as normal and then all of a sudden, BAM! Life handed me some shit on a stick.
Ok, not literally, but jesus I had no idea what was happening to me. I had a rash that started on my left wrist (again, that I ignored for too long), then it spread to my right wrist. Then my feet and ankles. Then the backs of my knees. UGH. WTF. Seriously whhattttttt is this shit.
I feel like I should back up even more at this point and tell you that I *knew* that these rashes were eczema (or atopic dermatitis, or whatever the Dr.’s want to call it these days), but I had never experienced a flare up like this before. I had eczema as a baby and then outgrew it as a child- as many people do. It’s actually quite common in babies. Anyway, apparently my parents struggled with it and had to practically bathe me in vaseline every day…(sorry, moms!). Oh yeah, I have 2 moms, they’re lesbian and I love them. But that’s a story for another time.
So I outgrew it, had normal skin, and then my senior year in high school I developed a small rash on my back that we attributed to me wearing a sports bra and sweating in it for 3+ hours a day all year round. I played competitive tennis back then and in California we get to play all year round bitchessss. 😉 So the sweaty sports bra caused a small rash on my back, big deal, right? Right… the dermatologist gave me some topical steroid cream to put on it, end of story. Mostly. Every time I applied the steroid cream it helped, but the rash never fully went away. It was never a big enough issue to really worry about so I more or less let it be, very occasionally applying the steroid cream when it went through what I now know are flares.
But fast forward 9 years and I’m 27 and having rashes pop up left and right. I start applying the cream to the rashes on my wrists that started in November 2015. When it began, the rashes were really small but annoying for me since I was boxing almost every day and had to wear hand wraps that made my wrists even sweatier. But by the middle of January the rashes had spread to my forearms, feet, ankles, and backs of knees and they were unbearably itchy and I didn’t want to be using the cream everywhere because after doing my own sleuthy internet research, I came to find out that topical steroid cream can be really bad for you.
So I go see multiple dermatologists who can tell me absolutely nothing except here, put a stronger steroid cream on it. Long story short, I saw multiple Dr.’s, multiple dermatologists, an allergist and an acupuncturist, and the rash keeps spreading and getting worse after I stop using the cream. The acupuncturist thought it was topical steroid addiction, which basically meant my body had physically become addicted to the steroid cream to the point where if I didn’t use it, my body would produce the rash just to try to get more steroids – in a simple way of explaining it.
The dermatologist I finally found who also agreed that it was topical steroid addiction, said that this can happen in as short as 4-8 weeks of using corticosteroids. If you want to learn more about topical steroid addiction, also known as topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) and Red Skin Syndrome (RSS), you can check out my dermatologist’s site and the non-profit trying to spread awareness about it, ITSAN. Be warned, the photos on these sites are really tragic and hard to look at, especially of the little kids going through this.
It gets SO much worse than a rash – you pretty much turn red from head to toe (hence the Red Skin Syndrome name), your body feels like it’s sunburned x 100, there’s nerve pain, shooting pains, oozing skin, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, chills + sweating (always fun), extreme fatigue, insane itchiness like you couldn’t believe, and then spells of crazy dryness where the skin is so dry it’s painful to move. Fun stuff right?
It consumed my mind constantly and I was never able to think about anything else or focus for too long on any one task. Basically I wanted to curl up and sleep until this was all over, but I often worried it would never end. For many people, it gets so bad they have to take medical leave from work. Fortunately, I had the flexibility to work from home. If I didn’t, I would’ve had to take a leave as well because most days it was too painful to even wear clothes. That’s how badly my skin would hurt. I looked and felt terrible and was extremely uncomfortable 24/7. Thankfully, I also had periods where my skin seemed to clear for a week or two at a time, so I sort of had little breaks here and there. Some people aren’t as lucky.
So, long story short again, I’ve spent all of 2016 going through this withdrawal process and the only cure for it as it turns out, is time. Wellll shit. That sucks. My Dr. says it takes about 1-4 years for patients to fully recover. Ummm that’s not cool. Thankfully, I was on a low dose of steroid and I wasn’t using them very heavily for too long so I think my recovery time is going to be close to the 1 year mark. I consider myself very lucky.
So as of right now I am 10 months into this thing and the past 3 weeks have been SO much better. I feel as though a weight has been lifted. My mind is so free because I’m not constantly consumed by my skin. I used to wake up feeling my skin on me (the best way I can describe it) because it was so dry or painful. Now I can wake up and I don’t even think about my skin. I can’t believe I ever thought life was hard. Life is actually incredibly easy when your mind belongs to you and not some illness. It’s crazy how much time and freedom I feel since coming out of the worst of this.
So back to the point of this post. I think when you’re not in tune with your body, when you’re not living in alignment with your truest self, when you’re ignoring that recurring niggling feeling in your subconscious – bad shit can happen. The crazy explosion of rashes didn’t come from no-where. I always thought they had started because of a hormonal imbalance after I stopped taking hormonal birth control (another story for another time) in October of 2015. I think that could’ve been part of the problem, but now looking back, after spending some time really reflecting on everything, I think this all stemmed from ignoring my feelings and ultimately for allowing myself to live so out-of-sync with myself. But the universe gave me what I needed to get reconnected with myself and regain control of my life, even if it didn’t seem that way at first. It reminds me of one of my now favorite quotes, something I repeated during some of the darker days during this process.
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” – Eckhart Tolle
So this blog is dedicated to my journey of finding myself, loving myself, finding out what happiness looks like to me, discovering true health and everything else in between. I’ll cover the books I’ve been reading to help get better connected with myself, the meditations I’ve been doing, tools I’ve used, people I’ve met along the way. I’ll go into all of my experience trying to cure myself through food, supplements, crazy diets like 7-day water fasts and juice cleanses, and new super foods. I’ll talk about all the tips, tricks and hacks I’ve found and am testing out for optimal happiness, health and nutrition. I’ll discuss what works and what doesn’t work, my favorite products, recipes, workouts, and more. If this sounds like a journey you’d like to come along for, please subscribe to stay updated!
- The name Punch Drunk Soul has three different meanings for me. The first comes from my love of boxing that I discovered in 2013 (yes, I enjoy hitting things/bags/people – hard!). The second – punch drunk literally means getting hit so many times in the head by your opponent that you feel disoriented and drunk. This year, life threw a lot of punches my way and totally rattled my heart, mind and soul. For a while I was disoriented, but I’m finding my way back to a better reality and hope I can share some learnings with you along the way. The third is that I believe everyone’s soul can become punch drunk at some point in their lives when they ignore their true self and rightful path.
- This is not a lifestyle blog about being a hostess with the mostest (because I’m not)
- You won’t find much pinterest-worthy home decor and design stuff, because our apartment is really not that beautiful. It’s often messy because I am good cook but not the best picker-upper (that’s the BF’s job heheh)
- I may share occasional recipes but I am no Martha Stewart
- Lastly, I am not a certified life coach, mentor, spiritual advisor or otherwise. You won’t find any fancy letters after my name. What I do have is experience. Experience struggling with a difficult illness and learning how to love and accept myself regardless. Experience using what I learned through meditation and mindfulness to ease my suffering and, ultimately, experience breaking through my fears and insecurities to align with my true self and find happiness within. As I said, it’s an ongoing process that I will forever be perfecting. I like to call myself a modern spiritualista.