Makeup and beauty tips for low energy and chronic illness

🍓 Simplifying your makeup and beauty routine and feeling pretty and glowy even with very low energy 🍓

My health has gotten slightly better, and I’m really enjoying using makeup again. It makes me happy to try out different products and looks at home! As I spend most of my time in my reclining bed, it’s been wonderful having something to look forward to, and which I can do without hurting my hands too much!

But one thing became clear after watching beauty videos on YouTube. I simply don’t have the energy to do a normal makeup routine! Even a base seems to require many steps, brushes and blenders and lots of products. It would make me too exhausted to keep switching between products, to apply them in different ways and to decide which ones to use.

So over the past few months I’ve found some really good multi-tasking products that help simplify my routine, and I thought I’d share them with you! I use this routine when at home and for special occasions like birthdays, and when I go out to hospital appointments. It’s nice to feel pretty even when ill with chronic illness 🙂

🌸 Skin tints and colour corrector 🌸

These are cream based, so you don’t need any brushes or tools to apply.

1. Pixi’s Correction Concentrate in Brightening Peach. This is the one product that I always use and absolutely love, even if I don’t have the energy to use anything else at all. That’s because these cover up the very, *very* dark circles under my eyes! I never used to have dark circles before I got ill. I just take my finger and dab it under my eyes where there is pigmentation, and rub it in a bit. That’s it! It blends beautifully, and you only need a little bit. I don’t have to use a beauty blender or brush and it doesn’t need any concealer or anything else over the top. It can also be used on other areas of the face too.

Bobbi Brown also do a similar peach colour corrector as well.

Pixi correction concentrate

2. Glossier’s Perfecting Skin Tint in shade G7. This gives a dewy finish, and a soft-focus look on the skin. It’s like a primer, moisturiser, and lightweight foundation or tinted moisturiser in one. I just put a little bit in my hands and rub it on my face like a moisturiser. Again, I don’t need to use a beauty blender or brush, or setting powder. (Glossier have a matching Stretch Concealer if you have any areas you’d like extra coverage, and it is just dabbed on with the fingers too).

Glossier skin tint

What I love about skin tints is that they are so moisturising and low maintenance, and it just looks like your skin, but better. There are lots of other beauty companies that make skin tints as well.

If you prefer natural makeup products because of skin sensitivities, some companies like Green People have tinted moisturisers instead, which are similar to skin tints and easy to use.

🌸 Lips and Cheeks 🌸

I don’t have the energy to use multiple products and different brushes. Which is why I love cheek and lip stains! Such a great multi-purpose product, you just need your fingers and a few seconds, and it requires no brushes, blenders, contouring or extra products to make it sit properly.

My favourites are from Benefit as they are long lasting, have beautiful colours and don’t have a strong smell (except the original benetint with its rose scent). They have 4 different colours.

I love them all but I’d say my favourite is the Play Tint (a pink-lemonade tinted shade).

I also love Love Tint (a fiery red shade) when I want a dramatic red lip look.

Benefit cheek and lip tints

I just dab 3 spots on both cheeks and blend with my fingers, and then smooth some on my lips, and that’s it! If my lips feel dry, I’ll use a lip balm on top.

I love trying out lip and cheek tints – other beauty companies such as Too Faced and Korean beauty company Peripera make different shades, such as peachy pink, purple grape coloured, and berry.

If you prefer natural and low-allergen cosmetics, Ere Perez do a beautiful natural cheek and lip stain, and they get the colour from beetroot extract!

If I have more energy, I will sometimes use a cream highlighter such as Benefit High Beam which is again very easy to use – just dab 3 dots on the cheekbone and blend with fingers.

Benefit high beam

🌸 Eyeshadow 🌸

If I have some energy left after this, I will do my eye makeup. I prefer to use highly pigmented eyeshadows, so I only need to brush my eyelids with it once, instead of going over it many times. You can also use cream eyeshadows and blend out with your fingers.

Then I’ll use eyeliner, and a mascara with a small brush – to make it easier to use, and so I don’t stab my eyes – such as the Benefit Badgal Lash Mini, and then that’s my makeup done!

🌸 Even more simplified routine 🌸

If my energy is very low, the two products which make the biggest difference are the colour corrector and the lip & cheek tint. Those two things alone make me look much more rested and more awake, and depending on the tint colour, can create a dramatic lip look too. It also takes only a few minutes for me to do. 🙂

I hope this has helped a little with finding fun and easy to use multi-tasking beauty products, when you have chronic illness or energy limiting illnesses such as ME / CFS! 🍓💄

Update and a new diagnosis

A life-threatening event happened to me recently. This led to the doctors reviewing my ME/CFS diagnosis.. and they have now diagnosed me with a genetic neurological condition that can present similarly to ME. The doctors believe I have had this condition all along. I’ve written this blog so that I can update you on what happened and why 🙂

It started in June. I had surgery to remove my gallbladder in early June. At the time of surgery, I had already lost about 2 stone in weight and was struggling to eat. About 10 days following the surgery, I developed fevers. I felt very unwell, and tried to get help from my local hospital. They sent me home, telling me it was probably just a viral infection, as there was nothing showing in my blood-work except for mild inflammation. A few days later I ended up travelling to another hospital, where they realised I was very ill and they admitted me as an inpatient.

Soon after being admitted to hospital, I ended up in intensive care. I had developed Cardiogenic Shock.

Overview

Cardiogenic shock is a life-threatening condition in which your heart suddenly can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. The condition is most often caused by a severe heart attack, but not everyone who has a heart attack has cardiogenic shock.

Cardiogenic shock is rare. It’s often deadly if not treated immediately. When treated immediately, about half the people who develop the condition survive.

What is cardiogenic shock?

Cardiogenic shock occurs when the heart is unable to supply enough blood to the vital organs of the body.

As a result of the failure of the heart to pump enough nutrients to the body, blood pressure falls and organs may begin to fail.

Cardiogenic shock is uncommon, but when it does occur, it’s a serious medical emergency.

What treatments are available for patients with cardiogenic shock?

The most important part of treatment is improving the flow of blood and oxygen to major organs to avoid damage.

Treatment may include:

  • Life support to restore blood flow to major organs
  • Medication to prevent blood clots, make the heart stronger and get more blood to major organs
  • Devices to help the heart pump enough blood to the organs and rest of the body

Complications

If not treated immediately, cardiogenic shock can lead to death. Another serious complication is damage to your liver, kidneys or other organs from lack of oxygen, which can be permanent.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cardiogenic-shock/symptoms-causes/syc-20366739

https://www.healthline.com/health/cardiogenic-shock

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I went into cardiogenic shock, and multiple organ failure, at the hospital. At that point they didn’t know why it had occurred, but thought it could be lupus myocarditis (inflammation of the heart caused by lupus) given my past medical history of lupus, or sepsis. Both of these got ruled out later, but at the time they were still unable to pinpoint the cause. My heart had drastically reduced the amount it was pumping, and my blood pressure dropped quickly. I was struggling to breathe as there wasn’t enough blood reaching my lungs. The doctors had to move me to the ICU. I was put in an induced coma, intubated and put on a ventilator. They stabilised me on life support there.

The doctors then decided to send me to a specialist hospital, as they had intensive care facilities for the heart (heart lung machine, intra aortic balloon pump etc), which they didn’t have at their hospital. And they felt that I would need those machines.

When I got to the new hospital, they performed an Echocardiogram. My heart was pumping with an ejection fraction (EF) of 10%. (Note that anything under 50% is classed as heart failure). I had severe heart failure, although they didn’t know why, and that’s what had caused the cardiogenic shock. My kidneys also failed, and I was put on dialysis. Even though the neurologist later told me that I nearly died, its only really hit me how ill I was, after reading the doctors notes and seeing the ICU observations.

I was given IVIG, and also vasopressors and heart medications to try to keep my heart pumping and to keep blood pressure from dropping. I wasn’t improving though.

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They ran lots of blood tests, blood cultures, swabs – my mum said they were also continually sampling blood from my arteries. They did blood tests checking for many viruses too. Essentially everything came back negative. My inflammatory markers were only mildly/moderately elevated – not what would be expected in a severe inflammatory reaction. My lupus markers were low, infact some of the antibodies I used to have (anti ds-DNA, anti-RNP) were now negative. They said my lupus was “quiescent”. They also ruled out sepsis and infection, it says in my notes “limited evidence of sepsis”.

I had positive anti-phospholipid antibodies in my blood. Anti phospholipid syndrome (APS), can also cause problems similar to this – it can cause lots of clots to form in blood vessels. So they thought it could be that (although this too was later ruled out). They even considered other rare conditions which can trigger organ failure due to severe inflammatory reactions such as HLH and MAS, but as far as I know, they ruled them out too.

The doctors said that the primary problem was the cardiac dysfunction – the heart failure – but it was unclear what had caused it.

I saw from my notes that they considered doing a biopsy of my heart muscle (taking some cells from the heart), to see if they could find out anything. But they decided against it because it was too risky.

They were worried about the possibility of putting a heart pump in, with my condition. They wrote that I would not be a candidate for a heart transplant.

But they then decided to put the intra-aortic balloon pump in. My mum said they called at around 11pm at night to tell an they were taking me to the surgery theatre to put it in, then they called her again at 2am to tell her it had gone well and I was back in ICU. One day later, they also started a trial of high-dose methyl prednisolone (steroids), because they had to try to do something to improve the situation, and although they didn’t know the cause, they thought it would not harm at the very least. So they treated me “empirically”.

Then, 3-4 days later, I had suddenly improved. My EF (ejection fraction) improved to about 25-30%. My heart started pumping blood again around my body. The fluid started draining from my body (my mum & boyfriend said I had swelled up a lot), when my kidneys started working again. I was able to come off dialysis and the ventilator a few days after that, (although it then took a few months for my heart & kidney to go back to normal levels).

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Once I got out of ICU, I was sent for brain and spine MRIs to try to find evidence of any microangiopathy (blood clots), and there was none. So APS (anti phospholipid syndrome) involvement was also now ruled out.

A cardiac MRI was done a while later. There was no myocarditis (heart inflammation) or previous infection of the heart, or previous heart attack that could explain what had happened.

But the doctors had also noted that when I woke up, I had some new neurological signs including upper motor neurone signs, severe weakness and inability to sit up at all, and new severe allodynia (a type of severe nerve pain) in my legs and feet. Even though I’d only been in ICU for around 10 or 11 days I think. So they asked the neurologists to take a look for a second opinion.

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The neurologist came to see me a few times – he did a neurological examination, and took a history from childhood. He later said that while my history and symptoms of exercise intolerance, fatigue and weakness could be caused by ME/chronic fatigue syndrome, they could also be caused by an underlying myopathy (muscle disease). He felt that a metabolic myopathy could be causing my symptoms including the cardiac dysfunction. The metabolic team also said that cardiac dysfunction can be a major symptom of metabolic diseases (which makes sense as the heart is a muscle), there have even been cases where that’s the first or only severe symptom that the disease presents with.

The neurologist noted that I had very significant muscle wasting (more than would be expected with only dis-use) which pointed towards an underlying myopathy. I also had eye abnormalities on examination, as well as weakness, which again pointed towards it.

Metabolic myopathies are rare genetic diseases that affect metabolism — the processes through which the body’s cells convert fuel sources into usable energy. People with metabolic myopathies lack certain enzymes involved in making the energy that is needed for muscles and the body to work properly. There are many different types, and one type is mitochondrial myopathy. In this particular condition, genetic changes in mitochondria mean that the body cannot produce the energy it needs, and this can lead to some parts of the body shutting down. All of these conditions can sometimes start in adulthood, and sometimes in childhood.

These conditions present with fatigue, exercise intolerance, muscle weakness, muscle pain or cramping, as well as heart problems and serious organ dysfunction. There can also be symptoms such as breathing problems, nerve pain, seizures and neurological features, and eye changes and dysautonomia.

He asked my doctors to do an EMG (a test which passes electrical currents through muscles), and wanted to arrange for a muscle biopsy (where they take a chunk of your muscle to test for certain conditions). He also wanted to rule out any neurological inflammatory causes of my symptoms.

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The EMG + nerve conduction came back with a lot of abnormalities (suggestive of both a myopathy (muscle disease) and neuropathy (nerve disease)). The neurologist said although some changes can be caused by ICU related neuropathy, my results also point towards an underlying muscle disorder too. He said I was only on the ICU for a short time (meaning that alone couldn’t account for my symptoms). He told me later that the sort of weakness and symptoms I had, was what would only be expected of someone after many months in ICU.

They also wanted to do a biopsy, as that can rule in or rule out a lot of diseases. But they did an MRI first on my legs to see which leg to take the biopsy from. The MRI of my legs showed abnormal muscles in both legs. I had the muscle biopsy done and also had a biopsy taken of the sural nerve in my ankle, as well as a skin biopsy.

I was down in the surgery unit for a long time – about 4 hours – but that includes the waiting time before and after, and I think the biopsies themselves took about 1-2 hours. That was the hardest thing I had to do when I was in hospital – mostly due to the light and noise in the waiting areas before and after, when I wasn’t sedated.

The people doing the actual biopsy, especially the anaesthetists who were present, were great though. The biopsy was done under local anaesthesia and heavy sedation, as they wanted to avoid any general anaesthetic (I was so heavily sedated during it that I even forgot there were bright lights just above me, and I didn’t even notice any noise, or the time passing during the surgery). I still have scars on my ankle and leg from it, and I had quite severe pain in my leg for 2 months afterwards, and my ankle still has weird sensations. I also had a downturn in my symptoms following the biopsy and was vomiting for 2-3 weeks. For me, it definitely wasn’t a minor procedure. I’m still glad I had it done though.

The muscle biopsy came back with abnormalities, and the neurologist wrote a note saying the biopsy results were consistent with metabolic myopathy. So the muscle was then sent off for further tests.

I also had blood taken for whole genome sequencing for undiagnosed metabolic diseases. My mum has also had her blood taken, to use as a “marker” against mine, so they can more easily identify disease-causing genes from my blood. I do not have one of the well-known metabolic myopathies, (which the neurologist said was to be expected, because if it was easy to find, it would’ve been found already!), so mine will be a type that is not characterised yet.

The neurologist said the episode I had, was consistent with metabolic myopathy. And I understand that my symptoms and signs fit.

So where does this leave me…? 🌸

My diagnosis now is “probable metabolic myopathy and neuropathy, presenting with an ME-type picture and acute fulminant heart failure”. And a letter has been sent to my GP.

It is written as “probable” until a gene is found, but my medical history and tests all point towards it. The neurologist has said he thinks I have this condition. I’ve been told that it may be many years, even 5 or 10 years for example, until the gene can be identified. But I know new research is happening all the time into these conditions.

There is no treatment for me currently, only supportive treatment (help with symptoms), and trying to avoid life-threatening events like what happened recently. Some triggers which make these conditions worse, include infections and losing weight (and I lost a lot of weight just prior to surgery). The neurologist has said it’s unlikely I will ever get back to where I was before I became ill 6 years ago.

I had supportive physio, and am currently waiting on the community physio to come and help with doing the very gentle exercises I am able to do currently. I also already get help with “pacing” which is something that many people with energy limiting illnesses do (including those with ME). It involves breaking tasks into smaller chunks & taking rest, to help live with limited energy. This can help with day to day functioning.

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When I was in hospital, everything happened so quickly. I was also very physically unwell, and still recovering from the delirium that I developed while in ICU (terrible nightmares and hallucinations, caused by the medication that is used to sedate people in critical care). I was in a great deal of physical pain, and was also re-learning how to turn over in bed, how to use the bedpan, and then eventually how to stand.

And at the same time, I was going through so many investigations and speaking to many new doctors and health professionals, while doing physio in between. While also dealing with light, and noise, staff in the hospital, and a new routine. (I am so glad that I was given my own room there, and was allowed my mum to stay with me). I was in hospital for 2 months. When I was in hospital, I had already been given a working diagnosis of metabolic myopathy, although I did not know that at the time. (At the time, I still thought it was sepsis that had caused my issues..all the way until near the end of my stay, when I questioned the doctors and they told me that it wasn’t that!)

It’s only now, a few months on, and back in my normal environment at home, that I’m able to really think about and come to terms with everything that has happened. I feel very surprised, and very much in shock, but incredibly grateful.

I’m forever grateful to the doctors and nurses who saved my life, in both hospitals, and then also found out what was wrong with me.

I’m also so grateful to get this level of testing done on the NHS, as well as the follow up care. When I was diagnosed with ME 6 years ago, all medical testing on the NHS just stopped, and the neurologist had noted this too when speaking to me.

I have more medical support now, and understanding from doctors and people around me that I have to meet in daily life. That alone has helped me a lot, emotionally. It is very hard living with a diagnosis of ME, and especially severe ME, because it is so badly regarded by people who don’t understand the seriousness of the condition. We are so extremely disabled, need help with all daily care, and yet on the outside people think we look ok. And ME sufferers are treated with indifference, if not outright neglect, not only by doctors, but often by their own family and friends.

We have had some people in our own family tell us things like “just get her up to walk more”, and “do you have anxiety? You should get some help for that”, when I was dizzy, weak and in a lot of pain. I’ve been treated extremely badly by some medical professionals, denied the accessibility requirements I needed to access care (in one instance, left for nearly 2 years without the care I needed), and even laughed at by doctors and told to do “distraction techniques” when I could barely sit up. Having to go through these sorts of things continuously, has nearly broken me.

I am lucky though that I have a very supportive mother, and boyfriend, as well as a very lovely circle of friends who have stayed by my side throughout all of this. But now, to have a new diagnosis means that at least there will be more support and understanding medically.

The new diagnosis also helps me to come to terms with what happened to me in ICU and in hospital, and will hopefully help doctors be aware of the condition, so that they know I may be at risk of such incidents happening.

Even though my diagnosis says “metabolic myopathy presenting with an ME-type picture”, I still feel very much a part of the ME community, because my symptoms are similar as I have an ME-type picture even if the mechanism may be different.

As to whether I think other people diagnosed with ME might also have this condition instead…yes, possibly. But I don’t think it’ll be that many people with ME. People with ME don’t tend to get the same sort of organ dysfunction that is common in these myopathies, and which is looked at for the diagnosis. But if you are in any way concerned, it’s better to get things checked out. I think it is difficult to get the level of testing that I had on the NHS though – I know the reason I did, was because I nearly died.

So anyway.. that is the story of how I was given a new diagnosis of metabolic myopathy presenting with an ME-type picture.

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P.S here’s a picture of Seashells with a hospital band on, who stayed in hospital with me the whole time. She was even in intensive care, my mum says she would find her tucked up in bed next to me! how sweet 🙂