A little over a year ago I discovered what is known as the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM). The idea is that you cleanse your face at night with plant oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, etc and these “good oils” are supposed to remove the “bad oils” along with all the impurities from your pores leaving your skin clean, soft and hydrated.
Although I was skeptical at first, after doing some research and hearing people rave about what a miracle coconut oil and the OCM have been for them, I decided to give it a shot. It kinda made sense that “like dissolves like,” therefore oil dissolves oil. What did I have to lose? In hopes to eliminate a few breakouts I got here and there, I dove right into what became the biggest mistake of my life.
I learned from my research that when you first start using coconut oil, it’s normal to break out. This is what they call the purging stage or “healing crisis” you had to go through before you would have flawless, beautiful skin. Like many things in life, things get worse before they get better, and breaking out meant that the coconut oil was doing its job by drawing out all the toxins from your body. So when I began to break out, I thought to myself, ‘Yay! It must be working!’ I was excited.
Even though I would wake up with new bumps on my face every morning, I really believed that (or hoped that) the coconut oil would work its miracle and make everything go away like magic. I was already too deep into the purging stage that there was no way in hell I could just give up and quit now. I had to get to the bottom of this “healing crisis”. So despite the horrible reaction my skin was having, I held onto a thin string of hope and proceeded to cleanse my face with coconut oil religiously every.single.night. without fail for an entire month.
Let’s just say I was basically washing my face with poison. What was supposed to leave me with perfect skin ended up creating massive, angry inflammations in all the areas that the oil had touched – meaning my entire face was completely ruined.
When I looked in the mirror, I could no longer recognize the reflection I saw.
I was traumatized.
I took a leave from work, canceled on my friends making up lame excuses, and covered all the mirrors in the house because I simply could not stand how I looked. Every day I asked myself a million times why I did this to myself and regretted ever stumbling upon the marvelous reviews about coconut oil and the Oil Cleansing Method.
Why didn’t I listen to my body when it was screaming NO to this ridiculous idea? When my mom & sister would say to me “Maybe this isn’t working for you Lydia… Maybe you should stop.” why was I so damn stubborn and refused to take their advice?
…Why on my freaking face!?
I hated myself. I hated life. I hated everything. All I wanted was to just go back in time and get my face back. I missed hanging out with my friends. I missed having a life. I missed being me.
I hid from the world and lived like a hermit. I would only leave the house for 10 minutes a day to walk my dog around the neighborhood with the biggest pair of sunglasses I could find that covered half of my face. But even those 10 minutes were so painful and difficult. I felt so vulnerable being out in the open, bare faced. I didn’t want to be seen by anyone. For the first time in my life, I hated sunlight and wished for it to be dark all day so I could just hide. I was too ashamed and prideful to even share any of this with my friends. I didn’t want to look weak. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was struggling.
“Sorry, can’t make it. I’m just going through some personal stuff right now. I’ll explain later.” was my response to everything.
Fast forward a year later and a lot of doctor visits, antibiotics, facials and silent tears in-between, I am still recovering from the aftermath of this disaster I brought upon myself. I am still not 100% back to my normal self yet, but am definitely making progress – slowly but surely.
The desire to have perfect porcelain skin ended up ruining my face leaving me with not just scars on my face, but scars in my heart. Until I am completely healed and back to being comfortable in my own skin again, I know that I will have to fight this battle and it won’t be an easy one. But instead of crying over what an idiot I was and how much I fucking hate coconut oil, I decided to turn this experience around into the biggest life lessons I don’t know I would have learned otherwise. Here are a few things I learned that I wanted to share with all of you in hopes that this will help someone out there who might be going through a rough time.
1. Time heals almost everything. Almost.
One of the biggest lessons this experience has taught me is how to be patient. Don’t get me wrong, I still hate waiting. But I have learned to trust the timing of my life by letting go in the areas I have little to no control over. One of my favorite quotes is “everyday do your best and God will do the rest” (if you’re not a religious person, just replace “God” with “the Universe”).
Whether it’s a heartbreak or a breakout, give it some time to heal and stop obsessing over it. The reason why I had to cover all the mirrors in my house was because I became obsessed with the progress (or lack thereof) I was making with my face. First thing I did every morning was to stare into a mirror to see if I had made any progress overnight. Then every 5 seconds throughout the day, I would check to see if any bumps disappeared or appeared. Looking back at old pictures of when this first happened, I cannot believe I went through all that misery. I am so proud of how far I have come.
What seems to be impossible to defeat in the moment will slowly get easier if you tackle it one day at a time. So breathe, relax, do yoga, eat good food, talk to a friend on the phone, laugh, play with your dog and trust that you will be okay. Maybe not immediately, but overtime you will learn to become okay. A small step in the right direction is still progress. So have faith in what will be and let time work its magic.
2. What you choose to focus on multiplies.
There are two types of people in this world: those who fall and sink deeper into a black hole and those who fall and eventually learn how to fly. The truth is, we all fall at some point in our lives. We all experience some sort of excruciating pain whether it be an event, illness, death, or relationship that really tests us and leaves us bare and vulnerable.
What differentiates those who come out of the storm stronger than they have ever been vs. those who let the storm destroy them is the difference in their attitudes.
If I can name a million things to complain about, I can name a million and one things to be grateful for. What this experience has taught me is how to appreciate the littlest things in life that I once took for granted. Rather than complaining about how the barista at Starbucks accidentally made my chai latte with skim milk instead of soy milk, I now choose to think about how fortunate I am that I can afford to buy myself a chai latte whenever I want. Instead of complaining about how Waze made me take side streets to work which ended up taking longer than usual, I now choose to be grateful for having a great job and for getting to work safely despite all the crazy LA drivers like myself. Something as little as going to Costco with my mom on a Saturday morning became such a big joy because I wasn’t able to do that when I was going through the recovery process.
Once you go down the negative path, it’s easy to drown in the complaints, annoyances and frustrations. But if you just lift up your head, put on your rose colored glasses, start to appreciate the little things and give thanks for all that you have been blessed with, your life will overflow with joy, happiness and positivity. Focus on the good things and you will attract more goodness in your life. Remember, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.
3. Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
If you know me, I’m sure you know I love to say the words “who cares”. It’s my response to almost every hurdle that has to do with what other people will think or say. But who cares? Haters are gonna hate. We can’t live our lives constantly worrying about how others will perceive us.
I’ll admit, I have asked myself a couple of times “what are people going to say about me once this post goes live?”, but if I had let those thoughts take over my desire to inspire and help others, you would not be reading this right now. What I’ve learned is that no matter what you look like or what you are going through, those who genuinely care about you and love you for who you are will stick around till the end. We all see a lot of people come and go from our lives. Some are there to celebrate with us during the happy times, but life isn’t all about rainbows and unicorns. The relationships that speak volumes stem from the struggles and tears that are shared together in the darkest of times. The sad truth is that many people will disappear from our lives once the party is over. But if there is even one person who has been there for you to wipe away the tears of your ugly cry and stuck by you when you felt like you have lost everything, hold onto them dearly and don’t let them go. Reciprocate that love by being there for them too even if you may be the only person on their side. It will mean the world to them.
When you surround yourself with the people that bring out your true colors, you are able to paint the world the way your heart desires. This is your life and you only get one shot at it. So use all the colors that you have. Be you and don’t hold back. This is what the world has been waiting for.
If you want to quit your job and go travel the world, go. If you want to ask out that cute guy or girl you met on the dance floor, ask them out. If you want to chop off your hair and dye it pink, do it. Make a list and do them all. Take risks and cross everything off your bucket list. Live the life you want to live and don’t die wondering because the people who belong in our lives will always find a way to stay.
4. Less is more.
Although I am a firm believer that you can never take too many photos or eat too many cheese rolls, there are certain areas of life where more doesn’t always equate to better. Every day we are inundated with so many of so many things. So many meetings at work that consume our entire days, so many emails and Facebook notifications, so many Instagram posts and Snapchats, so many ingredients in the foods we eat, so many beauty products we put on our faces and bodies, and so many tasks we juggle at the same time.
I’m 100% guilty of this too. Rarely am I ever just working on one thing at a time or rarely do I ever unplug from all the social media notifications that blow up my phone. As for my skincare regimen, I used to put on a minimum of toner, lotion, spot treatments, essence and weekly masks in addition to the monthly facials I got and at-home laser treatments I did. And I thought it was a brilliant idea to do even more by bringing in coconut oil to the mix. I was totally overdoing it. I thought the more good things I put on my face, the better it would be. Boy, did I learn this the hard way.
Since then, I have learned that it’s not only good, but extremely important that we go back to the basics once in a while. Sometimes it’s OK to live like a caveman and keep life simple. Just wash your face with water and give your face a break. Turn off your phone and have a real conversation with a friend. Squeeze in some “me time” at work and go for a walk. By focusing more on doing less, putting on less, and consuming less, we are able to simplify our lives and make more room for ourselves and our happiness.
5. Every cloud has a silver lining.
I used to sing my heart out to the song “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. She’s right. Most of the things we deal with in life – no matter how difficult they seem in the moment – will only leave us stronger than we were yesterday. We just need to believe that a hint of brightness is present in every situation. It may take months or even years for us to actually see this light in the dark, but it’s there. It’s always there. We just need to choose to open our eyes. Make it a habit to ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience? What good can come out of this situation?”
In one of my favorite books Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr says we all stumble and fall at some point in our lives and will “lose” at something. But this is a necessary process in order for us to truly understand “up” and continue on the further and larger journey. By falling, we actually move upward, and therefore, we fall upward.
I can’t say that this experience has been a fun and easy ride. But it has definitely changed the way I view the world. It’s almost like I got a second chance at life. Everything I once took for granted became what I wanted the most. I’ve had it all along, but it wasn’t until I lost it all, longed for it, and slowly started getting back piece by piece that I was finally able to open my eyes and see the light. Everything you go through grows you and it’s often the hardest lessons in life that teach us the most.
“Anything can be a miracle, a blessing, an opportunity if you choose to see it that way.” – Oprah
6. You are not alone.
Even though things are difficult and you feel like nobody in this world understands what you are going through, trust me when I say this – you are not alone. Everyone is fighting a battle of their own that you know nothing about. Going through this coconut oil nightmare was not exactly how I envisioned my late twenties to look like. I felt like my entire world collapsed and there was nothing I could do about it. I was helpless. My friends and family were nothing but supportive and encouraging, yet I felt so alone.
Then one day I stumbled upon an article on Liz Marks, a beautiful girl who got in a terrible car accident reading a text message she got from her mom, and is now blind in one eye and severely disabled. She was only 17 when her life turned upside-down. Liz is now sharing her story and promoting no texting and driving to save other students from making the same mistake that she did.
I also came across another story on Turia Pitt, an engineer and former Australian model, who was caught in a bushfire during a marathon and burned 65% of her body. Over the last four years, she underwent over 200 operations, had to amputate her fingers, and has been fighting extremely hard to get her life back. Not only is she now a motivational speaker/author inspiring thousands around the world, but she is also an athlete, a philanthropist with the heart of gold and has become my biggest role model.
Reading about Liz and Turia’s stories made me feel so silly. I felt so small for hiding in my room avoiding every social gathering while these girls are out there changing people’s lives despite the adversities they overcame and continue to face. In an interview, Turia talks about how she was able to find out just how strong she is through her experience and that we all have the inner strength inside of us, but it just never gets tested and therefore we never get to discover how incredible we really are. She is such an extraordinary woman with a great deal of strength, optimism and determination. I am so touched by her story and am motivated to continue my battle with a more positive and humble attitude.
No matter how difficult things get, keep your head up and keep moving forward. You can do this. You are strong. You are awesome. How blessed are we to be alive and breathing in this very moment? If flowers can teach themselves how to bloom after winter passes, so can you. Don’t ever give up.
7. There will never be a perfect time.
Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Take the moment and make it perfect. Don’t let the struggles you are going through now stop you from living your life. We don’t know if we will even get a tomorrow. So love now and experience life to the fullest.
I keep telling myself “once my face gets better I’ll do this, once I have this, I’ll do that.” But why wait? Why not now? Sometimes life throws unexpected surprises at us when we are least prepared for them. So who knows what will happen to us tomorrow? Don’t wait until you are 100% ready because you may never be.
I’ll be honest, there are a lot of plans I postponed or canceled because I didn’t feel comfortable and would rather wait until I was completely healed. I missed a lot of my friends’ birthday parties (sorry), sold my tickets to Coachella (my favorite weekend of the year), and have been choosing Netflix over dinner dates.
But at the same time, I didn’t let this experience stop me from moving forward with my life. I traveled to Europe with my girlfriends and watched the most amazing NYE fireworks in London, got an amazing new job at SpaceX working for the coolest dude alive, went skydiving and jumped out of a plane at 15,000 feet, and am now going on my first solo adventure to Scandinavia in just a few days. Do I feel ready to step out of my comfort zone and be completely alone for two full weeks in the countries I’ve never stepped foot in? Absolutely not. Would I rather wait until I’m 100% healed to be going on this trip? Probably.
But I choose life. I choose now. I choose to live in the here and now, because this moment is my life.
It’s easy for us to share the good, happy stories. But often times, it’s the difficult ones that really make an impact on someone else’s life. This is my story and I’m so grateful and happy that I’m now at a place where I can openly share this with all of you. Sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been, to stand up taller than you ever were. I still can’t help but cringe when I hear the words “coconut oil”, but I am incredibly humbled by this experience and feel so blessed that this completely transformed me into a better version of myself.
Anything can happen to anyone at any time, so don’t ever take anything for granted and think ‘Oh that’s never going to happen to me’ because life can do crazy things and catch you off-guard sometimes. Give thanks to all that you have been blessed with and live life to the fullest my friends. Surrender to what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be.