Adult Autism & ADHD Diagnosis: My Personal Experience

For a while now, I’ve been struggling with the feeling that I don’t know my authentic self. “Authenticity” was one of my 2021 words of the year because of this! At that time, I’d only just begun toying with the idea of autism and ADHD. After a lot of research into these conditions and the depths of myself and my memories, I decided to pursue an adult autism & ADHD diagnosis.

Paired with a growing understanding of my physical conditions, this process has been eye-opening. It’s not, by any means, a firm conclusion—I still have a long way to go towards that authentic self I’m working towards. But, even still, I’ve gained a lot of insight into who I am and why so many of my experiences have happened in the way they have.

Learning about adult autism in women

Like many recently diagnosed adult autistics, I first came across adult autism–and autism in girls/women/AFAB individuals–online. I’m not sure of the very first references that caught my eye, but, along the way, I landed on a few particular creators who’ve been absolute assets:

Before this, I really only knew about autism in stereotypes (Sheldon Cooper, anyone?). Following these creators and their journeys has been incredible, and it’s given me insight into not just the reality of the autistic experience but, in particular, how it manifests in those assigned female at birth/raised as girls.

Learning about Afab ADHD

Similarly, my initial knowledge of ADHD was limited to stereotypes. Even as I dove down the research rabbit hole that is autism, I dismissed ADHD experiences that resonated with me because there is so much overlap between the conditions. And yet, something in the back of my mind noted these.

When it became more apparent that I might have ADHD myself (more on that later), I came across the How to ADHD channel on YouTube, and everything sort of fell into place. Jessica is incredible, and her videos should be “required reading” for anyone (but especially girls/women/AFAB) thinking they might have ADHD.

My Embrace Autism Experience

Embrace Autism The Ultimate Autism Resource

Before diving into my autism diagnosis, I want to acknowledge the privilege that comes with being able to pursue a formal assessment, especially an out-of-pocket one. The only way I could make this happen was with an unaffiliated payment plan (through Affirm, to be exact), and, even then, I recognize that this has a degree of financial privilege as well.

With that in mind, I didn’t think I would have the chance to pursue an Embrace Autism assessment when I first came across the website. Of course, self-diagnosis is entirely valid, especially given the barriers that women, POC, and others deal with in this context. I have “good” insurance by US standards, but I couldn’t pursue an adult diagnosis within that coverage. For me, though, I needed that “official” diagnosis to stop doubting my understanding of myself and my experiences.

Whether pursuing a formal diagnosis or learning more about autism (and related concepts, like alexithymia), the Embrace Autism website is an incredible resource. I’ve seen plenty of other neurodivergent folks using the tests and information on the site to aid in self-diagnosis or a better understanding of autism and being autistic. If you’re unable to seek out a formal diagnosis or you are content with self-diagnosis, this is especially helpful; taking these tests and understanding the results is an incredibly informative process in and of itself.

About Embrace Autism

Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht

Embrace Autism describes itself as “THE place to find research & experience-based autism content for personal elucidation & empowerment. By autistic people, for autistic people.” The primary face behind the scenes is Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht, a psychotherapist and naturopathic doctor. She is joined by Eva Silverant (who you’ll see behind much of the EA social media presence)and others who are committed to, quite literally, embracing autism. They bring together the resources on the EA website, these autistic-led assessments, and so much more.

Most importantly, Dr. Engelbrecht and co. are nearly all (if not entirely) autistic/neurodivergent themselves. If you’re concerned about allistic healthcare providers overlooking your experience because it doesn’t align with the conventional idea of autism, this crucial element makes Embrace Autism so appealing.

EMbrace Autism Screening Questionnaire

Embrace Autism Adult Autism Screening

If you are interested in pursuing an autism diagnosis through Embrace Autism, you’ll begin with the screening questionnaire. This step doesn’t supply a formal diagnosis but, instead, offers insight into whether the “real” diagnostic process is warranted. You’ll move through the questionnaire, which allows you to reflect on your experiences in light of the DSM-5 criteria for autism and a collection of psychometric tests.

You’ll receive a 10-page report based on this data, indicating whether your responses suggest a likelihood of autism. Assuming this is the case, you’ll proceed with the diagnostic assessment.

Screening Psychometry:

  • AQ
  • RAADS–R
  • CAT-Q
  • VIA
  • RBQ-2A
  • Aspie Quiz

My experience with the screening portion of the assessment was pretty straightforward. I’d put a lot of thought into the criteria beforehand and dredged up some memories in the process, making them easier to recall in the moment. I’d also taken “practice” psychometric tests earlier, having used the various links on the EA site in developing my own initial self-diagnosis. All-in-all, I think I finished this portion in one hyperfocused evening.

When I received my screening report a few weeks later, my results were “highly indicative” of autism, and continuing the process was warranted.

Embrace Autism Diagnostic Assessment

Embrace Autism Adult Autism Diagnostic Assessment

Like the screening portion of the process, an Embrace Autism diagnosis begins with a questionnaire and psychometric tests. This is what leads to your diagnostic interview a few weeks later and an ultimate diagnosis (or lack thereof).

Diagnostic Psychometry:

  • ASRS-v1.1
  • EQ
  • SQ–R
  • ESQ
  • TEQ
  • TAS-20

Pre-Diagnostic Interview: Beyond adult autism

Embrace Autism Adult Autism Assessment

This was by far the part of this experience that I was most anxious about (perhaps tied with the cost). I don’t do well with phone/video calls, in a combination of anxiety, PTSD, and auditory processing difficulties–and, I know now, autism. With that in mind, I suppose this shows just how invested I’ve been in getting answers. I was willing to face one of my greatest triggers to get there!

In the time between my screening and eventual interview, I’d actually taken a similar step by joining PlushCare and meeting with my incredible primary care physician via video. This was plenty anxiety-inducing too but, after having such a positive experience with my doctor (she’s truly the nicest person I’ve ever met!), this interview seemed a bit less daunting. Joined by the fact that Dr. Engelbrecht herself is autistic and inevitably encounters others who struggle with this sort of communication, my anxiety became more of a nervous anticipation.

Once I was able to schedule my interview, I knew for sure what conditions would be screened for at this stage: autism, ADHD, alexithymia, PTSD, and C-PTSD. I’d ended up on a different page of the website earlier that listed relevant conditions as autism, ADHD, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), so this confirmation was much-appreciated. While I’ve suspected EDS another form of hypermobility might be behind some of my joint pain (I’m already diagnosed with fibromyalgia, as well as suspected ME/CFS & POTS and my various other conditions), the thought of verifying a long-since-assumed PTSD diagnosis was especially welcome.

Of course, this came with some questions, too: How have the traumas I’ve endured interacted with my autistic traits? Have I gone through certain experiences because of my autism? It seems painfully likely, in retrospect, that a lot of situations could have been avoided if I were more adept at recognising social cues.

Alexithymia, though, was an unfamiliar concept prior to finding EA. Scientific American defines alexithymia as “the inability to recognize emotions and their subtleties and textures.” As I learnt more, I could hardly believe it—this symptom made so much sense! I’ve always been an overly empathetic, emotional person but, despite this, I struggle to put words to my feelings. This is hardly ideal when you make a living out of putting words to things! The idea that my discomfort behind the question of “how does _____ make you feel?” could stem from a legitimate reason was such a comfort.

Embrace autism diagnostic interview

When the day of my interview came, I adjusted my work hours accordingly (thankfully, my role is really flexible so I can squeeze appointments in and simply shift my shifts to accommodate them) and tried to prepare. I put together my notes from the previous steps in the process and put on my coziest sweatshirt for a bit of extra comfort. Then, I actually sat down to draft this blog post! At this point, I could say with pretty strong confidence that the results would confirm my self-diagnosis.

The interview itself is held through Dr. Engelbrecht’s portal via Psychology Today. Mine started off on an unconventional high note—Dr. Engelbrecht was running a few minutes late and sent a message saying as much. This meant so much as the anxiety would have hit hard otherwise!

Once we were both settled in, the interview itself was pretty straightforward. She asked a few questions following up on my previous answers and experiences. A personal favourite? I mentioned having the hallmark signs of PTSD, though I couldn’t say for sure that I had…to which she replied, “Oh, you do.” This seemingly simple response had a tremendous impact on me!  After dealing with symptoms for years and struggling to come terms with an assumed but unconfirmed diagnosis, this confirmation was absolutely life-changing.

Embrace Autism Diagnostic Report

Finally, after a bit more waiting, I had my report in hand. This was by far the shortest wait time between stages of the screening/diagnostic process–to paraphrase Dr. Engelbrecht, I have a pretty textbook case so the medical review would be quick and easy (I opted for this add-on for an added layer of confirmation, just in case I should need to request accommodations in the near future).

Most importantly, this report came with the final “gold star” (I mean, that’s what it felt like!). After several years’ self-diagnosis and a lifetime of wondering why I seemed so different from my peers, I had a formal ICD-coded diagnosis for both autism and ADHD.

I did have to follow up for confirmation on my PTSD (though she’d verbally confirmed this during our interview, the formal diagnosis was initially missing from the final report) but, in yet another dose of validation, my traumas were confirmed, too. I was absolutely ecstatic!

Embrace Autism More Information

It took a while for me to get past the stereotypical view of autism I once held, much less recognise my own self-diagnosis. It’s no surprise that the route from self-diagnosis to formal diagnostic report was a lengthy one, too! Similarly, the process wasn’t a cheap one==I’ll be paying off the Affirm loan for quite a while yet–but I’m nevertheless grateful for this incredible resource Embrace Autism offers.

If it’s in your budget, whether directly or through a pay-later service like Affirm, I absolutely recommend Embrace Autism for an adult autism screening or diagnosis. If you’re interested in saving up over time, be sure to spend some time on their website in the meantime. There are so many assessments you can work through and insights you can find in their articles. In short, embrace-autism.com is an invaluable resource for anyone who suspects they may be autistic or identifies as autistic without a formal diagnosis. Even if you’re already diagnosed, I’m sure you’ll find worthwhile information from throughout the website or EA social media profiles.

Grace & Able review

Grace & Able Review: Arthritis Care Kit

If you read my recent chronic illness wish list post, you might remember me mentioning the stylish compression gloves offered by Grace & Able. The brand was so kind as to reach out and offer me one of their arthritis care kits in exchange for my honest review! I’ve used these items for a few weeks now and am excited to share my Grace & Able review.

First and foremost, some insight into the Grace & Able brand and their arthritis care kit, in particular:

About Grace & Able

Grace & Able logo

The Grace & Able philosophy really starts with its founder, Sarah. An RA patient herself, Sarah faced a problem that all too many disabled individuals encounter: having to wear braces and supports and standing out because of them—and not in a particularly positive way. This is all too relatable—orthopedics, compression wear, and joint supports are hardly the most fashionable accessories in a spoonie’s wardrobe. And, all too often, these standout pieces bring attention (and plenty of prying questions) well before anyone recognizes our stylish outfit or bubbly personality.

Sarah recognised this frustration and joined together with Trevor Petrie, a certified hand therapist, to design functional, fashionable compression gloves and more.

The Arthritis Care Kit

The incredible inventory at Grace & Able all stems from these enthusiastic origins, including their arthritis care kits. These bundles prioritise both healthcare and self-care, supporting both your body and mind as you use it. Each kit includes a pair of their cotton compression gloves, a tube of magnesium soaking salts, and two linen flaxseed hand packs. And an added bonus? It even comes with stickers!

Grace & Able Arthritis Care Kit Thank You

You have a few choices to make when you order your kit. Compression gloves are available in three sizes (small, medium, and large) and five colours (ballet pink, classic black, heather grey, marine blue, and plum purple). Then your soaking salts can be one of four fragrance options: eucalyptus, lavender, rose, or unscented.

It’s also worth noting that this incredible kit comes in eco-friendly packaging—even their tissue paper is recyclable!

My Grace & Able Review

I was absolutely thrilled when Grace & Able first reached out about crossing this item off my wish list. I’d first come across their fashion-forward compression gloves when I began following Cheryl of Arthritis Life. At the time, my diagnosis was undifferentiated arthritis, and RA seemed the most likely form. I’ve since gone through further testing and started treatment for fibromyalgia, but I’ve still found Cheryl’s arthritis life hacks to be invaluable. The Jiffy Twist is the next item on my wish list that’s inspired by her product recommendations!

I like my standard compression gloves from Amazon well enough but Grace & Able’s commitment to making these chronic illness essentials more fashionable is just so inspiring. The ballet pink gloves, in particular, immediately caught my eye. One of my favourite childhood memories is a ballet pink polish my grandmother used on our nails—these were such a lovely callback to those memories.

I mentioned these as my top choice of compression glove (with plum purple & marine blue as my next picks…spoiler alert: I’ll definitely need to order these colours down the line) and Grace & Able sent just that. I also selected lavender for my scent since a bit of relaxation. is almost always a necessary addition to my everyday life.

When I picked up this exciting package from my PO box, I loved the packaging itself. It really is such a special delivery!

Grace & Able Special Delivery

Then, of course, I opened the package…and it became so much more exciting! The contents of the arthritis care kit were even better in person than the description on their website could relay.

grace & able Compression gloves Review

Grace & Able Compression Gloves

Firstly, these gloves are gosh-darn beautiful. I love the subtle detail of the GA logo tags! It’s a simple way to ensure you’re grabbing the right glove at a glance, and makes a great addition to the gloves themselves.

With the gloves on, though, they become even better. The ballet pink colour is just as gorgeous as I expected!

Grace and Able Compression Gloves

I can hardly wait to pair these gloves with some stylish outfits—I have a few particular pieces in mind already. So far, I’ve been wearing them around the house more casually, and even to bed a few times. Compression gloves are an absolute must at bedtime, and these quickly became my new favourites.

Grace & Able Soaking Salts Review

Grace and Able Soaking Salts

I put off trying these salts for a while, waiting for just the right moment. That special occasion came when I promised myself a home manicure/pedicure. With aching hands and ankles, the lavender salts were the perfect way to relax and relieve the discomfort.

I think my favourite part, though, was the aesthetic these salts had to offer. I’ll spare you the image of my feet soaking in the warm water, but know that the combination of the sprigs of lavender and the salt-infused water is almost as soothing to look at as it is to use. In short? I love these soaking salts and can hardly wait for the next “spa session!”

Grace and Able heat packs review

Grace & Able Salts and Heat Packs

Finally, we have the third main part of the Grace & Able arthritis care kit: a pair of heat packs. Each 4×5 pack is made of organic linen and filled with flaxseed sourced locally by the brand. Simply microwave for 20 seconds and enjoy the heat therapy! Alternatively, you can keep them in the freezer for some cooling relief.

These are intended for your hands, much like the other parts of the kit. That being said, they’re versatile—I recently used them on my eyes/temples during a particularly wicked migraine and the relief was wonderful!

 

All this being said, adore this Grace & Able arthritis care kit. I can’t thank them enough for the gifted product, or for the chance to share this lovely product with you all! They’ve been a pleasure to work with and I’m certainly planning to add more of their items to my collection over time. I mean, I need gloves in every colour, right?

If you have fibromyalgia like myself, another form of arthritis, or some other type of chronic pain, I truly cannot recommend the arthritis care kit enough. At the very least, you’re sure to find relief from one of the included products (and a smile at the included stickers, of course). More likely, though, you’ll find that the kit as a whole was exactly what your home treatment plan needed.

Staying Cool in Summertime as a Spoonie

Staying Cool In Summertime as a Spoonie

With summer on the horizon, I’m officially facing the struggle of trying to stay cool despite chronic illnesses. You might be having the same issue! Here are some of the ways I’m staying cool in summertime as a spoonie: 

What is heat intolerance?

Put simply, heat intolerance is an irregular sensitivity to heat. This is a high degree of temperature sensitivity—“a small change of temperature causes a dramatic response.”

There are a lot of different things that can cause or contribute to high temperature sensitivity or heat intolerance, including a variety of disabilities. Those with dysautonomia, including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), neurocardiogenic syncope, and other forms, often face temperature regulation issues thanks to dysfunction in our autonomic nervous systems.

Fibromyalgia and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome come with their own high temperature sensitivities. “ Are you one of those people with fibromyalgia (FMS) and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome(ME/CFS) who is cold all the time, or hot all the time, or alternately hot or cold while out of sync with the environment?”

In my case, yes! I’m currently undergoing treatment for fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and dysautonomia, and waiting for confirmation on a few different diagnoses. Some other conditions causing temperature dysregulation include hyperthyroidism, multiple sclerosis, Graves’ disease, and more. Even certain medications can come with heat intolerance or increased temperature sensitivity. Wherever it is the temperature sensitivity is coming from, the heat intolerance is excessive!

Symptoms of Heat Intolerance

With these conditions, changing seasons can be painful. While others might feel a slight discomfort as temperatures change, many spoonies struggle with more severe reactions, or even pain.

Heat intolerance comes with a slew of symptoms within the symptom, including:

  • feeling of overheating
  • heavy sweating
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • cramping
  • nausea
  • elevated heart rate

Severe circumstances can even lead to heat exhaustion, with symptoms like confusion, loss of coordination, vomiting, muscle cramps, high body temperature, and rapid breathing. If your “normal” symptoms are anything like mine, you won’t want to deal with these too!

Staying Cool in Summertime as a Spoonie

All this is to say, my own heat intolerance/temperature sensitivity call for staying cool any way I can when summer comes around! Here are a few of the methods I’ve tried so far or will be implementing over the next few weeks:

Air Conditioner

Air Conditioner

I finally broke down and purchased an air conditioner this year, partly to keep Fitz safe and partly for my own comfort. The worse my temperature sensitivity gets, the less I’m able to deal with the increasing summer heat!

That being said, I’ve gone a long time without AC. I’ve always been one who gets too cold too quickly—now, I realise this is at least in part from the back-and-forth between AC and heat. If this isn’t an option for you right now, I can attest to everything else on this list offering some degree of relief!

Fans

Tower Fan

Like I’ve said, this is the first year I’ve had an air conditioner when summer came around. With a slew of new medications, symptoms, and diagnoses, it was worth the strain of adding a payment plan to my budget! If you’re not able to get air conditioning or you have less discomfort in heat, you can get an awful lot of relief from conventional fans.

My go-to combination of fans to keep you staying cool in summertime as a spoonie includes a tower fan and a box fan. I got my tower fan at a great deal last year and it’s held up well since. My box fan is equally impressive—I got it when I was still in college and it’s still going strong! Plus, I love anything pink 🙂

I typically put the box fan in the window, then position the tower fan to oscillate on the opposite side of the room. Together, they make all but the hottest days a lot more bearable. 

Neck fan

Neck Fan

Heat relief at home is great but what if you’re on the go? Or what if you’re moving from one room to another and can’t get enough of the cool stream of air as you do? That’s where this incredible neck fan comes in. 

This is absolutely perfect for trying to get through some chores during a heat wave, taking a walk around your block, or simply adding another layer of cooling power to your summer strategy. 

Cooling cloths

Quick Dry Towels

Is it even a post from An Ideal Life if it doesn’t include a product from Miss A? These quick dry towels double as a quick and easy method for staying cool. Whether you’re a spoonie, heading to the gym, or trying to beat the heat, these are a great addition to your summertime cooling kit. 

Cooling patches

Cooling Patches

Another Miss A must-have! These cooling patches are an integral part of my migraine kit and can just as easily work to help cool you down in a pinch. It’s easy enough to toss a packet of two into your purse! It’s important to note that they aren’t super adhesive—the cooling gel stays on the skin but won’t hold up to a ton of motion or movement. 

Wipes

Body Refresher Wipes

If you deal with the heavy sweating that’s common with heat intolerance, have a limited capacity for typical hygiene due to your symptoms, or just needed an added layer to your comfort between showers, a simple pack of wipes is essential. I love these body refresher wipes from Miss A but even standard baby wipes will work!

Native deodorant

Rose Native

Another essential! I absolutely adore my collection of Native personal care products, including the natural deodorant. Native comes in a variety of lovely scents and is made without aluminum, talc, parabens, or animal testing. They even have a special sensitive formula for those with a baking soda allergy or intolerance, an unscented option, and plastic-free packaging options! My current go-to is their seasonal Rose. Chances are, there’s a new favorite waiting for you! 

Of course, sunscreen is crucial, too. Native happens to be my go-to there, too! I have their unscented sunscreen in both face and body formulas and I frankly won’t leave the house this summer without it!

Cooling sleeves

Cooling Sleeves

These accessories are fabulous because they simultaneously help with staying cool (despite another layer) and protecting you from the sun’s harmful rays. 

I picked up my first sets of these sleeves from Miss A but they no longer carry them. You’ll find similar cooling sleeves on Amazon and elsewhere. I’ve also got my eye on this shawl-style take on cooling sleeves, which cover the shoulders, too. These could be great for pairing sleeveless tops with cooling sun protection! 

Water, water, water!

Ello Water Bottle

If you only take away one item from the list, it should be to stay hydrated! This is a critical aspect of care for conditions like POTS and a great tip for general well-being. Lately, I’ve been alternating between my Hydroflask and this Ello water bottle

Liquid IV

Watermelon LiquidIV

While you’re at it, consider adding some electrolytes to your water while staying cool this summer. I swear by Liquid IV—they have some of the best flavours, in my opinion, and genuinely seem to offer relief. For a little added incentive, you can save $5 when you try Liquid IV through our referral link!

Do you deal with heat intolerance or other symptoms that make summer heat unbearable? What do you use to find relief? Let us know in the comments! 

Trying out one of these strategies yourself? Be sure to tag us on social media @anideallifeblog.

Chronic Illness Products On My Wish List

Chronic Illness Products on My Wish List

If you’ve been following me over on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that the symptoms of my various chronic conditions have been increasingly unignorable. As I go through the diagnostic process (with my incredible new doctor!), I’m slowly accumulating tools that make disabled life a little easier. However, there are still quite a few chronic illness products on my wish list! 

VIM & VIGR

VIM & VIGR LEMON SOCKS

VIM & VIGR was so kind as to send me a pair of their compression socks to review! Stay tuned for a full blog post coming soon. 

I was diagnosed with neurocardiogenic syncope more than a decade ago and one of our current theories is POTS, so I’m painfully familiar with dysautonomia. Pair that with my chronic pain and you have the basis for quite a love affair with all things compression! 

When I first spotted VIM & VIGR‘s compression socks, stockings, and other essentials, I added them to my mental wish list instantly. I mean, latex-free compression options with designs as cute as lemons? Count me in! When I eventually give these a try, I’ll report back but, for now, my expectations are definitely high. 

CEFALY Migraine Device

CEFALY

Over the years, I’ve amassed quite the collection of ways to cope with my chronic intractable migraines. I’ve seen this nifty device all over TikTok and other social media platforms lately and am so intrigued! The more I learn about Cefaly, the more determined I am to give it a try ASAP. 

Allay Light Therapy Lamp

Allay Light Therapy Lamp

I first stumbled across this migraine tool through Cove and it’s been more or less on my radar ever since. I’ve had some luck with green color therapy glasses for migraines, so I’ve got pretty high hopes for the Allay light therapy lamp

Embr Wave

Embr Wave

Embr Labs has sponsored a few episodes of Morbid: A True Crime Podcast (which I can’t recommend enough for my fellow true crime aficionados—and be sure to preorder Alaina’s debut novel!) and the Embr Wave definitely caught my eye. My symptoms include heat intolerance and general temperature dysregulation so the thought of having such innovative control most definitely catches my eye. 

90-Count Liquid IV

Liquid IV 90–Count

Liquid IV is already one of my favorite things (pretty much ever) and I definitely hope to invest in one of these bulk packs! Electrolytes help so much with my dysautonomia symptoms and Liquid IV is my personal favorite source. I try to keep plenty on hand and this would make that easier than ever!

Grace & Able Compression Gloves

Grace & Able Gloves

Grace & Able was so kind as to offer me an arthritis care kit to review!

I’m pretty happy with the compression gloves I have already but I’ve heard so many good things about Grace & Able! I’d definitely like to give this brand a try, with either their standard compression gloves (can we discuss that gorgeous ballet pink?) or the arthritis care kit (or both!). 

Upright GO Posture Trainer

Upright Go Posture

Simply put, my posture is terrible. Between neurodivergence, hypermobility, and life in general, I’m sure it has some impact on the pain I’d deal with already. I have a more conventional posture corrector already but rarely use it as it irritates my skin. Something like the Upright Go strapless device seems like an ideal solution! 

Pink Stork Mist

Pink Stork mist

I’ve used and loved Pink Stork’s nausea sweets for motion sickness and nausea so I have no doubt that their topical magnesium spray will be equally wonderful! I’m planning to try this one for pain, nausea, and everything in between. I love that their brand is woman-owned, too! 

Pain Relief Eye Mask

ergoBeads eye mask

As-is, eye masks are an absolute lifesaver (I love the conventional style as well as these warming eye masks from Miss A) when it comes to migraines and other flares. The “ergoBeads” in this particular eye mask have certainly piqued my interest! 

Hug Sleep Pod

Hug Sleep Pod

My weighted blanket is one of the single best things I’ve ever owned. The Hug Sleep Pod looks like such a fantastic alternative for nights when my pain sensitivity might be too much for extra weight! 

HomeTop Hot Water Bottles

HomeTop Hot Water Bottle

Storytime! Back in Bath, I purchased a wonderful hot water bottle. In addition to the classic rubbery bottle, it came with an adorable “sweater” covered in paw prints for a cover. While the bottle itself followed me to the States, that sweater got lost along the way. I haven’t found an exact replacement but I’m loving these options from HomeTop. Their 2.25 liter model has such a unique design, and the classic 2-liter hot water bottle is a great piece to match. Plus, both covers look like they’d be such a pleasing texture—and I’m never one to turn down polka dots!

Vive Foot Rocker

Vive Foot Rocker

Plantar fasciitis is one of my least severe conditions but, when it flares up, it goes far beyond being just a nuisance.  Between that and my chronically tight hamstrings, the Vive foot rocker looks like an incredible little product! 

Medline Rollator

Medline Rollator

After a stint in the hospital last year, I ordered my grandfather a rollator much like this one to help him through recovery. As my own symptoms worsen, it’s an investment I may be making myself sooner than I would have thought! This light blue color brings a smile to my face, which is always a bonus when it comes to medical equipment. 

Vive Folding Cane

Vive Folding Cane

Full disclosure, my existing cane is quite similar to this one. But, much like the rollator mentioned above, I adore this teal color. Plus, it adds some accidental dysautonomia awareness–sounds like a great fit!

Microwave Knee Wraps

Microwave Knee Wraps

With my affinity for hot and cold therapies, I could hardly believe that these wraps were a new find when I discovered them only recently. This is such as incredible solution! My knees have been bad since childhood so I’d love to give these a try. 

Allergy Amulet

Allergy Amulet

If you have food allergies or sensitivities and haven’t heard of Allergy Amulet yet, you’re missing out! Their device is able to check your food to detect top allergens, with more on the way. A few of my personal food triggers aren’t part of the program just yet (but on their roadmap!) but I’ll definitely keep an eye on this for that update. 

Migrastil migraine stick

Migrastil Migraine Stick

Despite being an essential oil fan and seeing countless Buzzfeed recommendations for this headache relief roll-on, I’ve somehow yet to try this fan-favorite (and cruelty-free!) topical. One of these days I will, and might add it to my tool kit!

Neck Pressure Point Device

Neck Pressure Point Device

I already use and love my cervical traction device and recently added a neck massager to my arsenal. I’ve seen this cervical spine alignment tool recommended, though, and am interested in giving it a try! These solutions seem to work wonders for my migraines, headaches, and neck pain, so I’ll gladly keep another option on hand. 

Foot warmer heating pad

Foot Warmer Heating Pad

One of my various conditions comes with a particularly irksome symptom—my feet and toes get absolutely frigid! I’ve used my existing heating pad for the sole purpose of warming them many times. This foot warmer would be absolutely ideal, especially when in a full-fledged pain flare, too. 

Sacroiliac Hip Belt

Sacroiliac Hip Belt

I recently saw this style of hip belt recommended for folks with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and, while that’s not one of my diagnoses (current or suspected), I do have enough hypermobility in various joints that this looks to be helpful. Plus, it’s said to help with sciatica, too! 

Thera Cane

TheraCane

Honestly, it’s shocking that I have yet to try the Thera Cane! Without fail, this massager is recommended on every listicle featuring products for chronic pain in its many forms. It may be in one of my roundups, too, if I end up loving it as much as others seem to someday!

Hip Ice Pack Wrap

Hip Ice Pack

Between sciatica and joint pain, I’m super interested in this hip ice pack wrap. Haven’t we all dealt with trying to get a typical ice pack to sit *just right* for a particular pain? 

So, these are a few of the items on my chronic illness wish list. Have you tried any of these products for spoonies, or are there other chronic illness products you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments or across social media @anideallifeblog!

Coping with Chronic Migraine

Coping with Chronic Migraine: Tips & Tools I Use to Manage Migraine Pain & Side Effects

For as long as I can remember, I’ve dealt with debilitating migraines. They’ve always been horrible, with pain, nausea, speech difficulties, and sensory sensitivities galore. More recently, they began fighting with my eyes, too, leaving me with blurred sight (at best) for a day or two, too. Coping with chronic migraine is easier said than done, but I’ve accumulated a few tools that make life with migraines a bit more possible.

Obligatory disclaimer: Talk to your doctor before changing your treatment plan. I’m not a medical professional myself, and this post does not constitute medical advice. These tips and tools are simply examples of my own experience with chronic migraines and are not guaranteed to work for everyone. 

It’s worth noting that I try to keep my lifestyle cruelty-free/vegan, not just my diet. However, healthcare & medical needs are the one area where I’m less diligent. If nothing else, how can I make a difference if I’m not well enough to function? We’re shooting for progress here, not perfection.

Cove

Cove Migraine Relief

First and foremost, I have to give a shoutout to one of the newest tools in my migraine crisis kit. A few months back, I signed up for Cove after a short-term trial of an abortive medication through K Health. My Cove physician was able to set me up with that prescription and ondansetron for nausea accompanying both migraines & meds (if you watch shows like Chicago Med, that may be a familiar one!) and a preventive medication I take daily, too. I could even have the prescriptions transferred to my typical pharmacy, which is even cheaper than Cove’s already excellent prices through their partner, Eagle Pharmacy.

If you use our referral link to give Cove a try, you’ll even get 60% off your first month’s prescription!

Migraine Buddy

Migraine Buddy

Migraine Buddy is a lifesaver for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s essential to keep track of migraines. I feel like I have them constantly, so I’m gathering this crucial data even when I’m not logging as perfectly as I’d like to be. However, there’s even more to Migraine Buddy than tracking alone.

The Migraine Buddy app offers plenty of insights, activities, and information to help you understand your migraines. But, just as importantly, it guides you through a few specific screens as you log a migraine. My personal favourite details are two pages, in particular. Firstly, there’s a page that asks which medications (if any) you’ve taken. You can personalize this list so, even in the depths of migraine misery, you’ll know what to use or take. The same is true of the page for non-medication remedies, like resting in a dark room or drinking water. I’m sure I’m not the only migraineur who can never remember what actually helps while in the trenches!

Sign up for Migraine Buddy.

OTC Medications

Migraine OTC

Of course, prescription medications aren’t the end-all, be-all. I still depend on over-the-counter pain relievers and other OTC methods to ease my migraines. Advil is almost always my go-to, whether it’s straight ibuprofen, Advil Dual Action, or Advil Migraine. I also depend on a severe allergy pill (diphenhydramine [Benadryl] with acetaminophen [Tylenol]) for those headaches that seem to be sinus-induced—though it can be hard to distinguish between the two. In terms of supplements, I typically take Deva’s calcium-magnesium combo and recently started trying feverfew capsules, too.

Muscle RubMuscle Rub Migraine

With popular brands like Bengay, Tiger Balm, and Icy Hot, there are plenty of options for pain relief, whatever your preference. Your go-to store may even have a generic brand that’s similar or even better than your brand-name options (I’ve had luck with Walmart’s Equate equivalent to Icy Hot myself). The back of my neck, in particular, tends to be my go-to application spot, though my forehead, temples, cheekbones, and jaw have all had their fair share. If you use any of these topical products on your face, be sure to avoid getting any in your eyes!

CBD

Wink CBD marble

I first tried CBD several years ago, as it was starting to become more popular. A friend of mine was working with an MLM that specialised in CBD oils and offered me a small sample to try. I loved the results (not just for migraine relief but also for easing my chronic joint pain, anxiety, and other symptoms) but avoided the hefty cost until I could make space in my budget more recently.

After a ridiculous amount of research, I came across Wink CBD and gave their cruelty-free GSC (a minty flavour reminiscent of a certain popular seasonal cookie) and Cupcake oils a try. These are some of the most valuable items in my migraine crisis kit, and I can hardly recommend them enough. In fact, I’ve recently added a few new flavours to my collection, which I can hardly wait to taste test. I’m excited to try their other products, too, eventually.

Use code ANIDEALLIFEBLOG for 10% off your first Wink order!

Water

Water Bottle marble

In a lifetime of chronic migraines, I’ve heard many times that dehydration can be a trigger, so a simple glass of water can make a big difference. At the very least, there are few instances where a glass of water will hurt!

Looking to drink more water? We’ve got a post for that! 

Electrolytes

Liquid IV water marble

Like water, I’ve long since heard that electrolytes may benefit migraine symptoms. I only started trying this trick for myself this past year or so, though—and I’m so disappointed I didn’t explore it sooner! I adore Everyday Hydration and LiquidIV for this, but there are other versions, too, of course. Electrolytes aren’t a magic cure-all for migraines, but they help pretty often!

Coca-Cola

McDonalds Coke app

In particular, McDonald’s Coke is some sort of magic—and I’m not alone in this strange migraine remedy! I’ve heard people attribute this to the particular syrup-water-ice ratio the chain uses, but I don’t need to know the details. If it makes coping with chronic migraine easier (and usually offers that relief for just $1), I’ll take it! Now, to get McD’s on board with plant-based food options….

Ginger Candies

Thrive Market Ginger Candies

If your migraines are anything like mine, they come with an awful lot of symptoms aside from pain, including plenty of nausea. I learnt long ago that ginger could take the edge off this nausea—and candied ginger is a tasty way to consume it. Ginger tea is also an excellent choice—lemon ginger is one of my personal favourites! Not a fan of ginger’s flavour? These candies crafted for morning sickness can do wonders for migraine nausea, too.

Looking for these in particular? Sign up for Thrive Market for organic candied ginger and so much more! 

Peppermint Gum

Peppermint Gum marble

In a similar vein as ginger candies, peppermint gum is a must in my migraine survival kit. The flavour and scent help ease the tension, while the chewing motion keeps me from clenching my jaw. Alternatively, Tic Tacs work, too!

Essential Oils

Peppermint Lavender Roll Ons Essential Oils

Similarly to the scent of peppermint gum, peppermint essential oil is one of my top must-haves for coping with chronic migraine. I also have a lavender roll-on that promotes relaxation—a difficult feeling to come by when dealing with a migraine attack.

WeatherX

WeatherX app earplugs

I first saw WeatherX earplugs (previously MigraineX) mentioned in a Facebook group, and I eventually invested in a pair of my own. Since, I’ve added a few to my collection, including a pair of the smaller children’s size, which fit my ears much better. Even without the earplugs themselves, though, the WeatherX app could come in handy by warning you of upcoming pressure fluctuations if you suspect that to be a migraine trigger.

YouTube

YouTube Chronic Pain Migraine Sound

YouTube might not seem like a typical tool for coping with chronic migraine, but it’s one I turn to time and again. In particular, the audio from this video seems to help tremendously! Unfortunately, it seemed to disappear from the site for a short time, and I was devastated. I have no idea just how this works, but it’s a lifesaver!

Insight Timer

Insight Timer AfterShokz marble

I dove into Insight Timer when the YouTube video linked above was unavailable for a time. Of course, this is good for all sorts of meditations, sleep audio, and other moments of self-care. But it’s excellent for coping with chronic migraines, too!

Apple Watch

Apple Watch Screen marble

I hope rather desperately that Migraine Buddy and Bearable (two of my favourite apps for iOS) release Apple Watch editions of their respective apps. For now, though, I find that the heart rate monitor built into my Apple Watch Series 6 is quite beneficial. When you’re struggling with pain like a severe migraine, your heart rate tends to increase. I deal with an abnormally high heart rate typically, so I know that when the pain raises it even higher, it’s time to take a break and implement some of my tools for coping with chronic migraine.

Mouth Guard

Mouthguard

I recently noticed I’ve had a lot of jaw pain with my migraines as of late. I’m not sure whether TMJ is triggering migraines or vice versa, but I know that a mouth guard seems to help!

Cervical Traction Device

Cervical Traction Amazon Listing

When I came across this cervical traction device, I was intrigued by the idea of reducing dowager’s hump and potentially easing migraine pain. Unfortunately, I don’t always take the time to do this daily, but the relief is noticeable when I do.

Massager

Migraine Massagers

This tool is actually in two parts! I get terrible neck and shoulder pain when dealing with a migraine flare, so a massage gun or percussion massager is ideal. As a bonus, it helps with my other forms of chronic pain, too! I also use a heated neck massager, which feels heavenly at the base of my skull, where so much of my pain tends to centralize. I’ve also got a fantastic little TENS unit that helps with migraines and other types of pain, too!

Sunglasses

Quay flatlay

Am I that jerk who wears sunglasses indoors? If I have a migraine, you betcha. Light can be absolutely debilitating mid-flare, but dark shades can take off the edge a bit. I even suffered through a few college classes with them! I have an oversized pair from Miss A (currently unavailable, but they have a wide array of other sunglasses!) that live in my bedside migraine kit (a pouch that’s also from Miss A!). On the go, I turn to my pairs from Quay Australia or Tiffany & Co.

Cool Patches

Cooling Patch

Another Miss A must-have! These cooling patches are specially made for pain, fevers, and similar sorts of discomfort, and they’re lovely additions to my migraine toolkit. They’re also excellent when the summer heat is a little too unbearable!

Warming Eye Mask

Warming Eye Mask

Cool temperatures aren’t offering relief? How about heat? These warming eye masks—yes, another Miss A find—are incredible. Right now, they’re available in rose or lavender scents. I use the lavender for migraine relief since it’s one of the few aromas that doesn’t typically worsen a flare.

Eye Pillow

Cats aromatherapy eye pillow

On a similar note, a friend sent me an aromatherapy eye pillow (covered in cats!) that’s become a staple for coping with chronic migraines. I’ve even added a few more to my collection! PeaceLoveRelaxation is my go-to resource. I may very well have to add to my stock soon, too!

Warmies

Warmies Grey Cat Closeup

I cannot explain just how much I adore these cuddly yet practical critters. While the idea of putting a stuffed animal in the microwave is somewhat disconcerting, the effects are well worth it. Warmies are perfect for comfort during a migraine flare or simply staying warm come winter!

Sleep Mask

Sleep Eye Mask

Sometimes it’s just a bit of darkness you need—more than your favourite shades have to offer. In that case, a handy dandy sleep mask is ideal! I use one most nights anyway, so I have quite the collection around already.

Eye Patch

Eye Patch

This is by far the item my family most judges me for, but it’s a valuable tool nevertheless. Because I deal with chronic migraines, I can’t always retreat into the darkness as I’d like. So when I have to keep being a semi-functional adult, I’ve found that a cheap eye patch (mine’s from Walmart) can save the stabbing pain of light or screens in my eye. I typically have just one affected so severely at a time, so this is perfect for offering a bit of relief.

Rest

iOS Sleep

When it’s possible, sleep is by far the best tool for coping with chronic migraine. However, if the pain’s too much to sleep, even just lying down and resting can make a world of difference!

Regular Breaks

Apple Watch Pomodoro

Similarly to rest, taking regular breaks is crucial to coping with chronic migraines. I work on the computer (well, iPad, LATELY) and know that too much screen time will inevitably trigger a flare. By taking regular screen-free breaks, I can usually mitigate these effects! A Pomodoro timer is perfect for this. 

Even with this lengthy list of tools and tips, coping with chronic migraine is easier said than done. Still, even a little bit of relief is better than none at all!

Do you have a fantastic migraine-fighting tool I didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments or on social media @anideallifeblog!

Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life

LookHUMAN Mug Haul

LookHUMAN Mug Haul and Wish List

I’ve been a fan of LookHUMAN for ages, but it took me until just a few months ago to start my own LookHUMAN mug collection. Once I started, though, I dove in head first! Naturally, a LookHUMAN mug haul was necessary—as well as a wish list showcasing those I’d still like to add to my collection.

It’s worth noting that there’s more than just mugs on the LookHUMAN website. In fact, you’ll find designs like these on just about everything! Journals, t-shirts, face masks, and pins stand out as a few other fantastic products.

Cute Mothman Mug

Cute Mothman Mug

You might not know this about me, but I’m a big fan of Mothman. Is it normal to have a favourite cryptid? Regardless, between my go-to episode of Paranormal Witness and the wonderful Twitter bot, in-real-life friends and family know that cute Mothman merch is a quick and easy way to my heart. This mug was the first LookHUMAN piece in my collection and for good reason—how cute are these little mothmen? There’s a pastel version, too, that I’m hoping to get my hands on sometime soon.

Cute Mothman 15-ounce mug

Mothman Believes in You Mug

Mothman Believes in You Mug

Speaking of Mothman—how cute is this? Some days need a little extra motivation and Mothman is ready to offer just that. Unfortunately, this mug took a nose dive within days of getting it, leading to a nasty chip along the rim. I’m hoping to replace this inspirational mug soon for coffee/tea-drinking purposes, delegating the chipped version to holding some pens or pencils!

Mothman Believes In You 15-ounce mug

College Educated Evil Feminist Slut Mug

College Educated Evil Feminist Slut Mug

Full disclosure, I’ve actually got this mug packed away—while I’m stay at my parents’ house, it’s not quite the drinkware they’d want to see me using! Once I’ve moved away once more, though, I’m excited to pull this out and spread the word. Certainly, there’s nothing more evil than a feminist!

College Educated Evil Feminist Slut 15-ounce mug

Legally Blonde Harvard Mug

Legally Blonde Harvard Mug

Legally Blonde is one of my favourite movies of all time. Not only do I adore Reese Witherspoon, but I’m also a natural blonde with a small dog who nearly tried to become a lawyer (I talked myself out of that one for health reasons). This mug is the perfect confidence boost when adulting feels a little extra challenging!

Harvard Law What Like It’s Hard 15-ounce mug

Buy Me Books and Tell Me I’m Pretty Mug

Buy Me Books & Tell Me I’m Pretty Mug

I mean, this sounds like a pretty good plan to me! This mug always reminds me of an exchange between Firefly’s Wash and Kaylee (or, depending on the day, Kaylee and Simon—“pretty pretty” gets me every time!). Paired with my love for books, this mug just couldn’t be better. And who knows…maybe it’ll encourage the perfect bookstore date someday!

Buy Me Books and Tell Me I’m Pretty 15-ounce mug

Fueled By Crystals & Coffee MugFueled by Crystals & Coffee Mug

 

Even if you only know me through the blog and social media, this should be pretty self-explanatory. This combo gets me through more days than I could count!

Fueled by Crystals & Coffee 15-ounce mug

Need some more crystals in your life? Check out the Witchy One subscription box or my witchy Etsy haul!

I’m a Witch, I’m a Lover Mug

I’m a Witch I’m a Lover Mug

Who doesn’t love this oh-so-catchy Meredith Brooks song? The subtle word-swap for “witch” is perfect—I don’t curse much (especially around family), and I’m pretty darn witchy as a rule.

I’m a Witch, I’m a Lover 15-ounce mug

Spooks and Books Mug

Spooks & Books Mug

Former paranormal investigator, empath, and resident of a haunted house…who just so happens to be a bibliophile, too? What could be a better fit than an adorable mug that combines these interests?

Spooks and Books 15-ounce mug

Village Witch Mug

Village Witch Mug

This design is actually the first that drew me to LookHUMAN! After seeing it on Buzzfeed, I fell in love with the quaint illustration and the implications behind using this mug in my small hometown (technically a borough, but close enough!). So, it’s no surprise that this was one of the first mugs I ordered!

Village Witch 15-ounce mug

Perfectly Splendid Mug

Perfectly Splendid Mug

Any other The Haunting of… fans? While I love Hill House (if you haven’t read the novel yet, you absolutely must! It’s not the same as the Netflix series, but it’s perfectly splendid all the same. I mean, could Shirley Jackson write anything that isn’t?) Bly Manor (inspired by the Henry James classic, The Turn of the Screw) has a special place in my heart. That end-game couple is one of my all-time favourites, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s accent? Swoon. Bad guy or not, it’s impossible to deny it! Fan-girling aside, this mug is a splendid way to show off your love of this series.

Perfectly Splendid 15-ounce mug

Do I have space for more mugs right now? Not at all. Do I fully intend to grow my collection regardless? You betcha. These are just a few of the mugs on my wish list as of this writing:

Cute Pastel Mothman Mug

Cute Pastel Mothman Mug

I mentioned the “normal” cute mothman mug above—I definitely have to add the pastel version to my collection!

Cute Pastel Mothman 15-ounce mug

Ghost Cat Mug

Ghost Cat Mug

Adorably spooky kitty? How could I resist?

Ghost Cat 15-ounce mug

I’m in Love with the Shape of You Pumpkin Mug

I’m in Love with the Shape of You

Ed Sheeran meets Spooky Season? Yes, please!

Shape of You Pumpkin 15-ounce mug

Fireworks Make Me Anxious Mug

Fireworks Make Me Anxious Mug

Not only do fireworks aggravate my own PTSD, but they bother our poor pets, too. My parents’ neighbors, in particular, insist on setting off illegal blasts all summer long, so it’s an especial pet peeve! This mug illustrates my feelings pretty perfectly.

Fireworks Make Me Anxious 15-ounce mug

My Everything Hurts Mug

My Everything Hurts

This is a spoonie mug if I’ve ever seen one!

My Everything Hurts 15-ounce mug

Ruth BAder Ginsburg Justice Tarot Mug

RBG Justice Tarot Mug

I adore RBG, and this tarot card design adds a fantastically witchy touch!

RBG Justice Tarot 15-ounce mug

the Fall of the Patriarchy Mug

Fall of the Patriarchy Mug

It’s almost fall—this is a must-buy, right?

My Favorite Season is the Fall of the Patriarchy 15-ounce mug

Baby Goats Mug

Baby Goats Mug

Baby goats are adorable, satan eyes and all…and this mug is no exception!

Baby Goats 15-ounce mug

…You Know, Fall Shit Mug

You Know Fall Shit Mug

This mug made my sister and I crack up—we both adore autumn, and this couldn’t be more true for us as true crime fans!

…You Know, Fall Shit 15-ounce mug

I Like to Party Mug

I Like to Party Mug

Now that we mention true crime…how perfect is this one? Side note, drop your favourite true crime docs in the comments! I’m always looking for new titles for my to-watch list.

I Like to Party and By Party I Mean Watch True Crime Documentaries 15-ounce mug

Pride and Feminist Mug

Pride and Feminist Mug

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Jane Austen fan in possession of feminist ideals, must be in want of this mug.

Pride and Feminist 15-ounce mug

Therapy Is Expensive, Sleep Is Free Mug

Therapy Is Expensive Sleep Is Free Mug

Therapy is a great concept (I’ve got Talkspace on my radar myself), but not always an accessible one. Sleep isn’t an actual substitute, of course, but it certainly feels good in the moment!

Therapy is Expensive, Sleep is Free 15-ounce mug

Tears of My Readers Mug

Tears of My Readers Mug

Any writer recognizes this sentiment, right?

Tears of My Readers 15-ounce mug

Witches Get StufF Done Mug

Witches Get Stuff Done Mug

This mug instantly makes me think of Hamilton’s “Immigrants—we get the job done!” Witches certainly do the same!

Witches Get Stuff Done 15-ounce mug

Of course, I’m sure there are even more LookHUMAN mugs I’d love—but I don’t want a 3,000 word wish list here either! For now, though, this wish list is plenty. In fact, getting each of these mugs would more than double my LookHUMAN collection!

I absolutely love the mugs in my LookHUMAN mug haul so far and can hardly wait to add a few more, especially as spooky season approaches. Do you have any mugs or other products from LookHUMAN? Let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations!

Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life

Working Full-Time with Chronic Illness

Working Full-Time with Chronic Illness

As our social media followers may know already, I started a full-time (albeit remote) job this summer. Before this, I worked about 60 hours per week, on average, as a freelancer in addition to blogging, writing, and running my small press. That was even less sustainable than the thought of working full-time with chronic illness! Fortunately, my role allows a lot of flexibility, rather than a strict 9 to 5 workday.

That being said, this isn’t making the process of balancing a full-time job with the unpredictability of disabilities any less of a challenge. On the contrary, it’s been nearly a full quarter since I began this role, yet I’m still struggling with the adjustment! In the past few months, though, I’ve learned a lot about working full-time with chronic pain and other conditions. In particular, I’ve been working my head around how to do so successfully, simultaneously being a successful, reliable employee while managing my health and symptoms. So, of course, this is the sort of thing I can’t help but share here, too.

Take advantage of the good days.

As a freelancer, I found myself in a never-ending cycle of burnout, leading to a severe health crisis this past spring. In particular, Arianna Huffington’s experience hits home, along with the lessons she learnt in the process: change is absolutely necessary. In my case, this means I must make more time for rest and—despite my overly ambitious instincts’ protests—recreation, as well. I’m still learning how to reach this balance, but I’ve quickly learnt that making the most of those days when symptoms are minimal is a crucial aspect.

Fewer hours doesn’t mean less effort.

This may be particular to my situation, but I’m technically working far fewer hours as a full-time employee than freelancing. Nevertheless, I’ve also been struggling over the past few months while I adjust to a 40-hour workweek (or slightly over, in most cases). Much to my surprise, working full-time with chronic illness has led to more exhaustion despite being fewer hours than my freelance efforts previously. I know that starting a full-time job can be exhausting, but I had no idea just how tiring it would be!

Having the right team is key.

Of course, you can’t always change the people you work with. But, when that is something you can control, your supervisors and colleagues must be supportive. I’ve been ridiculously lucky on this front—my supervisor and colleagues might not know the innermost details of my diagnoses, but they know that I’m disabled. They’ve been incredible in understanding the struggle and trying to make this job work for me.

Be upfront about your needs and limitations.

I’m still grappling with this point personally, but I’ve realised that it’s essential to be pretty frank about the accommodations you need and the challenges your diagnosis might present. In my case, this was part of the reason I struggled to find a remote role and even failed to get some freelance clients before this. One particular difficulty, for me, is difficulty making phone or video calls. Fortunately, there’s a lot of technology in the modern days that allow me to manage with text-based platforms, whether it’s online ordering or chat service.

Remind yourself of your strengths.

One part of my new job that I’ve especially struggled with is meeting a weekly quota. On difficult days, that struggle has been enough to leave me questioning my abilities and having this job. I’ve had others tell me that I was a perfect choice for this role, but I can’t help but question it on the hard days. When this happens, I stop and try to remember why I’m here. Then, for a few moments, I’ll look through high scores or positive feedback my previous work has received.

Listen to your body.

Arguably, this is just a crucial tip for life with chronic pain or illness more generally. Flexible hours mean that, when I can’t keep my eyes open one afternoon (thanks to what’s thought to be myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome), I can sign off and take a nap, then return when I’m feeling a bit more functional. Likewise, when I’m feeling better than usual, I can push my limits a little more, leaving space for another day to be shorter when I’m struggling.

Take complete breaks.

Working through a bowl of chips between paragraphs doesn’t count as a lunch break. Ideally, I try to maintain a schedule with a full lunch break and two coffee breaks (morning and afternoon). At the very least, I make myself step away from the screen for a few minutes. This is vital to avoiding more significant flares, like a screen time-induced migraine, and staying productive when working.

Find Productivity Tools that work for you.

As spoonies, we can’t always thrive with conventional productivity methods and tools. However, I’ve found that a few productivity systems and productivity tools, in particular, help me get my work done with less stress. Of course, some days require different methods than others, and plenty of trial and error is involved. What matters most, though, is that you find what works for you and take advantage of your newfound productivity.

Keep notes and a to-do list.

If your chronic illness comes with brain fog, this is crucial. I keep an array of to-do lists between GoodNotes, my favourite task management apps, and my pen-and-paper lists. Not everything that comes to mind throughout the day is a task, though. So instead, I keep notes, too. Sticky notes are ideal, while the iOS Notes app or similar programs offer digital tools that do the same.

Create and utilise a flexible routine.

The benefits of routines are vast, especially when you’re dealing with conditions like autism or ADHD. At the same time, disabilities make that sort of consistency difficult. You never know when a pain flare or other symptoms will throw your routine aside! Tiimo is a great tool, particularly for neurodivergent schedulers, and Google Calendar is another fan favourite. I use these to outline my routine (there’s little chance I’d remember otherwise!), but allow myself to adjust it as needed. Leaving a few “free spaces” in my week ensures there’s room to accommodate those adjustments!

Embrace the unconventional.

I use this tip for productivity more broadly, too. Does having a stim toy or weighted lap pad make the workday easier for you? Never mind what others might think. Do what works for you! So long as your unconventional tool or method isn’t harming you or someone else, there’s no reason not to take advantage of it.

Find workarounds when needed.

Sometimes, your illness just won’t let you do the tasks at hand. For instance, when migraines affect my vision, I’ll struggle to type an article, much less edit and format it. In these cases, I turn to Otter.ai to dictate my assignments. I was surprised by just how accurate their transcriptions are! I’ll just have to make edits and format the text once my eyes are working properly once again. Think of where your symptoms cause a struggle and see if a similar workaround can help you thrive despite your illness.

Adjust your expectations.

Chances are, you’ve long since realised that you can’t accomplish things with the same speed and ease as someone healthy. This is especially true when working full-time with chronic illness. So remind yourself that sometimes good enough is plenty. As much as you want to be a reliable employee and impress your boss, you can’t expect every single task to be done perfectly—at least not if you expect to stay [relatively] healthy.

Know your limits.

Some people can’t work full-time with chronic illness or disability, despite their best efforts. If that’s the case, you might consider part-time or other alternative working hours to work with fewer complications. In some cases, you might not be able to work at all. This is undoubtedly a mental and economic challenge, but it’s essential to do what’s best for you and your health. If you need to decrease your work hours or step away from your career path, it’s worth considering whether these are compromises you can make for the sake of your well-being.

Do you work full-time with chronic illness? What helps make it easier?

Mini - An Ideal Life

How to Make a Five-Year Plan to Get Unstuck and Take Control of Your Life

A five-year plan is one of those concepts you hear about as you move through life, but no one really takes the time to explain. No one says, “Here’s how to make a five-year plan and why you’d want to. Knock yourself out!” With this post, I hope to do just that!

I’ve gone through a few iterations of my current five-year plan as my life’s changed. I recently started a full-time job I would never have imagined having—that undoubtedly changed my plans! That’s the beauty of this concept, really. When plans change, your five-year plan itself can change.

The first version of my five-year plan, though, was inspired by one of the most influential people I’ve had the chance to “know” (albeit through her blog & podcast!), Natalie BaconNatalie’s take on a five-year plan starts with envisioning your dream life amidst eight primary life categories:

  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Money
  • Career
  • Personal Development
  • Environment
  • Recreation
  • Service

Then, Natalie’s planning process takes you through the transition into becoming your dream self, then implementing massive action to reach your desired results.

My plan started similarly, with a list of life categories. In my case, there are a few more than Natalie’s—if nothing else, I work better envisioning my various businesses separately. So, in my five-year plan, I begin with these categories:

That works out to 14 categories versus Natalie’s eight, meaning mine involves a bit more work. But, in my case, this works best for me—in creating your own five-year plan, your own categories will be completely different, too! Essentially, the key is to consider your life’s main priorities.

From there, I craft the big-picture image of my ideal life (I couldn’t resist that one!). Going through each of these categories, I imagine the best possible state in five years. Typically, I write a few paragraphs per life category. You could craft a page-long imagining or turn to bullet points for a simplified version. Like your categories, your visualisation process is customisable.

Natalie’s initial guide to a five-year plan then focuses on mindset work or becoming the person you aspire to be. I won’t try to combat her expertise here—definitely check out her blog post to understand journalling as the person with your results, overcoming your fear, and consuming media that reflects your goals. I try to implement these methods myself, and I’m sure you could add your own mindset practices.

Then, both Natalie’s process and mine move to practicality—setting goals that move you toward the results you’re dreaming of, then taking action towards those goals. Typically, I try to have one main goal per category at any given time. Natalie’s a proponent of having just one main goal. The two concepts aren’t necessarily incompatible. With more than one goal, the key is to prioritise based on a hierarchy of your goals and categories.

In my experience, these hierarchies change. One week, I may be behind on a particular project and want to focus on catching up. The next, I might be more interested in caring for myself and reaching a healthier balance between work and play. Once again, you can work to figure out what works best for you! This method might mean I progress more slowly than if I were working towards one central goal at a time, but it’s what works best for me at this point in my life.

In practice, I aim to create my big main “impossible” goals, then break those down into smaller goals on shorter timeframes. I ask myself: “What needs to happen between now and then for this goal to become a reality?”

If I want to be settled in my new apartment by the five-year point, for example, I need to save for the upfront costs. I have to research my complex of choice and make sure my finances are in the best possible place before applying. And, of course, I need to figure out the logistics of my first big move! By planning a rough timeline for these milestones, I’ll have a better idea of how I’ll get from here to there.

Finally, I create task lists for the short-term goals set to be reached soonest, usually daily, weekly, or monthly projects. Armed with those to-dos, I can schedule my upcoming time blocks to best move towards my goals! 

By far, what I love most about this take on a five-year plan is its flexibility. When life changes—as it so often does—your plan can change with it. When you hit a roadblock, you can adjust accordingly. And, so long as you reevaluate your priorities and arrange your strategy accordingly, you’ll make incredible progress. 

Five years isn’t very long compared to a lifetime but, nevertheless, you can find yourself living a whole new life in that short time. I hardly consider myself the same person I was five years ago, and that was without a solid five-year plan. With one, the possibilities are pretty limitless. 

Be sure to check out Natalie’s blog and podcast, Design Your Dream Life, as well as her coaching programs, Grow You (at the top of my wish list) and The Creator Program. You just might stumble across the advice you need to skyrocket your own success in creating a five-year plan and beyond! 

Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life

East Coast Travel Destinations for your Summer Bucket List

East Coast Travel Destinations for Your Summer Bucket List

While I don’t get to enjoy it anywhere near as often as I’d like, I love to travel. The number of travel opportunities was one of my favourite things about life in Bath and, to some degree, college in Gettysburg. Here in the middle of nowhere (my current home base), the chance to travel is pretty rare. Reaching public transit to get anywhere is a trip in and of itself!

Still, the east coast offers some fantastic destinations. I’ve been lucky enough to visit quite a few, and others are on my own bucket list. So, with summer on the horizon and vacation plans being made, I thought there was no better time to share some of my top east coast summer travel spots.

Before we get into my favourite destinations, a few disclaimers are in order. A majority of these spots are in the Mid-Atlantic region since that’s my area of expertise. I even included a touch of Pennsylvania, though it’s not technically on the coast (most resources consider it a part of the region, if not literally touch the coastline).

Interested in PA travel in particular? Read about my weekend in Harrisburg!

There are a few must-see travel destinations, though, that I haven’t had the chance to visit just yet. Through my insatiable wanderlust and travel (ghost) writing experience, I’ve had the opportunity to “see” some incredible cities and points of interest across the country and beyond! Naturally, a few have piqued my interest and made their way onto my travel bucket list. Have you been to one of these places? Share your best tips in the comments or @anideallifeblog!

The Best Summer Travel Destinations on the East Coast:

Of course, be sure to follow any applicable health & safety guidelines when travelling, particularly in the wake of COVID-19.

Frederick, Md

Carroll Creek Park, Image via Visit Frederick

Frederick is quite possibly one of my favourite places anywhere, not just on the east coast. This city has all the amenities you’d expectyet somehow achieves a friendly small-town feel. I love the artsy atmosphere and see a dog nearly any which way I turn! Plus, Voila! tea is basically a dream come true.

It may very well be different for the people that live there (I know Gettysburg was like that for me), but, until proven otherwise, Frederick will remain one of my favourite spots in Maryland and beyond.

Miami, FL

Image via Miamigov.com

Beaches aren’t necessarily my forte, but the city of Miami has most definitely caught my eye.

From my writing projects and pop culture, the diversity here astounds me. If nothing else, I won’t turn down a chance to practice my Spanish listening skills!

Gettysburg, PA

Gettysburg Pennsylvania | An Ideal Life
Devil’s Den

Going to school there dampened my love for Gettysburg a bit, but I still have a soft spot for the tourist-packed summer months. Any history fan—or civil war buff, in particular—should have the National Military Park on their bucket list!

In addition to the battlefield, Downtown Gettysburg has a lot to love. Visit the Blue and Gray Bar & Grill for a veggie burger or grab a drink at the Pointe Pub (within the Federal Pointe Inn). Learn about Jennie Wade, the only reported civilian killed during the battle, or “meet” some Gettysburg ghosts at one of the town’s many paranormal tours. More spiritual visitors should be sure to visit The Crystal Wand’s new location on Baltimore Street.

Myrtle Beach, SC

Image via Visit Myrtle Beach

Technically, I have been to Myrtle Beach, but it’s been well over a decade. So, while I don’t have much in terms of specific recommendations, I do have a ton of happy memories.

It’s all too possible that my view of Myrtle Beach is clouded by nostalgia—as my disdain for sand & sun grew through the years, I think I’d still enjoy this one. But, still, that rose tint maintains my love of this South Carolina hot spot, hence its inclusion on this list of east coast summer travel ideas.

Inner Harbor, MD

Baltimore Inner Harbor | An Ideal Life

Apparently, most of my favourite destinations are in Maryland—who knew? Aside: one of my current writing projects is inspired by the town of Berlin, too!

Between family vacations as I was growing up and then school and professional trips in later years, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is near the top of my list of favourite places. In fact, I enjoy it so much that I’ve considered moving there!

But, so far as summer travel plans are concerned, Inner Harbor is the perfect weekend or day trip destination for anyone within a reasonable driving distance. From museums to adventures on the water, you’d be hard-pressed to not find something to love.

New York, NY

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, also known as Central Park Reservoir Manhattan | An Ideal Life
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Manhattan

Given my limited interest in beaches, it’s only natural that I’d include some cities as potential east coast destinations to visit this summer. NYC has a special place in my heart, and it’s not only because of Tiffany’s.

From Times Square to Central Park, New York City is “centre of the universe” for a good reason. But there’s more to the Big Apple than tourist attractions alone. My number one stop? VLife, the source of some of the best vegan food I’ve ever eaten!

Amherst, MA

Amherst Town Hall
Amherst Town Hall, Image via Encyclopaedia Britannica

Amherst is the newest addition to my travel bucket list, primarily due to the Emily Dickinson Museum. But any destination described as being “known for its bookishness, its artsyness, its local food obsession, its openness and tolerance, and its beauty” is the sort of place I need to visit!

Save for Salem, I’ve never had much of an urge to travel through the more northern United States. The more I learn about Amherst, though, the more that changes.

Petersburg, VA

City Point, Petersburg | An Ideal Life
City Point

My experience in Petersburg was limited to a Civil War conference half a decade ago (in my “former life” as a historian).But, from what I did get to experience the battlefield and surrounding area, I really enjoyed my stay!

If you do visit Petersburg’s National Battlefield, try to catch a program with my friend Emmanuel—he’s an incredible ranger and so passionate about his work!

City Point is especially beautiful, and its stunning views have stuck with me through the years. And, returning to my Pennsylvania roots, the 48th’s efforts had a particular impact as well.

Ocean City, MD

Ocean City, MD | An Ideal LifeAnother notable exception to my not-so-positive feelings about beaches, Ocean City, Maryland (not to be confused with its New Jersey equivalent) is anotherwonderful destination for a summer vacation. The boardwalk, in particular, has such fond memories!

As a bonus, the shore is just a few minutes away from one of my all-time favourite places, Assateague Island. They’ve basically mastered the formula for getting a place to catch my attention—they have cute animals and some literary references.

There’s much more to the east coast than these particular destinations. But these are a few of my favourites—and hopefully future favourites, too!

Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life

vegan bacon avocado toast

Vegan Bacon Avocado Toast

I love avocado toast. My basic avocado toast recipe is usually enough to satisfy the craving, but sometimes I want to craft something “fancier.” Whether it’s a relaxing Sunday brunch or a breakfast option with extra protein before a busy day, this tempeh-topped vegan bacon avocado toast is a delicious version of this millennial favourite. Admittedly, I very much fit that cliche. 

Jump to Recipe

For a low-spoon, wait-free version of this recipe, you could use Lightlife’s smoky tempeh strips as your “bacon.” I haven’t tried it in this context, but I love them on their own! I have no doubt this would be just as tasty.

Or, you could switch out this simple avocado mash with the seasoned version from our brunch-worthy avocado toast. This version is ready for brunch already, but the extra flavour would take it up a notch!

Similarly, feel free to use the tempeh bacon from this recipe as a side for your other favourite brunch dishes. It’s plenty delicious on its own, too, of course.

Add a hot sauce drizzle or make your version of a vegan BLT. Make this recipe your own! All that matters is that you love the final, tasty result.

vegan tempeh bacon avocado toast

Vegan Bacon-Topped Avocado Toast

Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings 8 slices

Equipment

  • Skillet or griddle

Ingredients
  

  • 1 package tempeh sliced thin
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice optional
  • 8 slices bread of choice

Vegan Bacon Marinade

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce or substitute
  • 3/4 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup sugar-free, if desired
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • black pepper to taste
  • paprika to taste
  • nutritional yeast optional, for topping

Instructions
 

  • Combine marinade ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
  • Coat tempeh slices in sauce, ensuring each slice is submerged. Allow them to soak for at least half an hour, but preferably an hour or longer for optimal flavor.
  • Grease skillet, if necessary and cook tempeh “bacon” over medium-high heat.
  • Toast chosen bread. While it’s toasting, mash avocado, adding lemon juice to preserve colour if desired.
  • Top toast with mashed avocado, then finish with slices of tempeh bacon.
  • Optional: Sprinkle with nutritional yeast.
  • Serve & enjoy!
Keyword Avocado, Tempeh, Vegan, Vegan Bacon

Let us know in the comments if you’ve tried this vegan bacon-topped avocado toast, or tag us @anideallifeblog on your favourite social media platform!