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Carpal Tunnel Recovery

Several months ago I developed the one thing which makes pianists quake with fear: carpal tunnel syndrome. It happened as a result of typing extensively (I was working on the sequel to Nisha) in the wrong position. As a pianist, I knew that hand positions were extremely important, but somehow this caution did not translate when I shifted to more writing and less playing piano.

It started with minor cramps in my palms, with a dull pain that eventually reached to the elbows. When it was undeniable, I knew I had to take action. For my plantar fasciitis, I went to a hospital that treated me with steroid injections. Just the thought of getting shots in my wrists terrified me, so I decided on another approach.

The Slow Way of Healing

I began routine physiotherapy for my carpal tunnel recovery at 4Strength in Siliwangi Bandung, where they implemented several actions starting from UltraSound, TENS electrical stimulation, massage, and also taught me exercises and stretches which I had to do daily. To be honest, I was very discouraged at first. Why did this happen to me, after the plantar fasciitis? I thought I had learned my lesson in trying to keep a balanced lifestyle.

It turns out a balanced lifestyle is a never-ending pursuit. New things are always popping up, something which you just didn’t know before. The best thing I could do was try to forgive myself and focus on the slow healing process. At the moment of writing this blog post, my hands are much better already. I can now type for 10 minutes where before I could only type for 1-2 minutes.

The best thing I could do was try to forgive myself and focus on the slow healing process.

I tried the piano here and there and found that I could play about 5 minutes every day before my hands got too cramped. What a luxury it was before to have been able to play for hours and hours. My only consolation is that I am retired from performance, if not this whole condition would have been even more heartbreaking.

I like the physiotherapy clinic, and am so glad my friend recommended it to me. I find the young lady who was my therapist to be smart, caring, and bright. Under her care and increased daily awareness of my body, I believe my wrists will heal, slowly and surely.

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Meatless Monday Challenge

The most recent episode of my podcast was launched on Earth Day. I interviewed Alexandra Iskandar on her sustainable lifestyle, and asked her for tips on how the average person could start their sustainable living journey. One of the tips she gave was the #meatlessmonday challenge.

Why?

Because research shows that livestock production and transportation contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than plant based foods. Climate change can be traced to what we eat for lunch! Golly.

I was inspired by these facts which Alessa shared in the podcast to try Meatless Monday with my husband Cung. We did it on and off for the past couple of weeks, with not much regularity and discipline, I am afraid to admit. However, I’m not going to give up!

I have always been of the mind that to achieve our goals, it’s easier when done in a supportive community. So I decided to invite a couple more like minded people to try the challenge. We will begin Monday, April 26, and attempt to stick to Meatless Monday four Mondays in a row until May 17.

Note: The supportive community will be done via Whatsapp Group for 1 month. Please only join this challenge if you truly have an intention to live a more ecologically friendly life by changing your eating habits.

If you are serious about it, and think the supportive community would help you, then contact me to join! Let’s take our small steps towards sustainable lifestyle together.

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Pluck, Cut, Pluck, a monologue

A woman struggles with all the hair on her face, questioning ideals of beauty and logistical costs of those ideals.

Setting: a woman is alone on the stage with a dresser that has a mirror. Next to it is a garbage bin. Her cellphone is one of the items on the dresser, along with beauty magazines.

Time: The year of 2020 during the Corona Virus pandemic.

Look, there’s hair growing underneath my tattoed eyebrows. Now I have to clumsily pluck them out, or make an appointment with my eyebrow tattoo artist. She did a marvelous job two years ago. But now they’ve started growing all around, making a mess again. I wonder if she is still in the eyebrow business now, with the pandemic and all that. She sends me regular whatsapp blasts about all the homemade sweets she is making and selling, so maybe she’s doing that fulltime now? I mean, I don’t get eyebrow messages anymore.

Oh no, there is also hair growing on top of my lips, and for that matter, underneath my lower lip! Ok I can bear the eyebrow hair, but plucking these tiny hairs hurt like hell. It makes my skin all puffy afterwards too. Maybe I can see if that cute waxing place in Jakarta does facial wax. But goddamn, if it hurts as much as vaginal waxing, I don’t think I can handle it. They always say it doesn’t hurt…that much, with an apologetic smile. Which you know means “sorry, that’s the price of looking pretty.”

Whoever decided that pretty meant no facial hair for women anyways? I have hair sprouting everywhere and pain aside it costs so damn much to get them removed regularly. Don’t even get me started about armpit hair and leg hair.

Eek, I can’t look, oh where are those scissors. Now my nose hair is peeking out! Ok even I can’t stand to leave this on. Where are those goddamn scissors??

She looks in a bag full of different facial utensils. She pulls out a nose hair scissors that is dirty and rusty. She stares at how rusty it is and has a second thought.

Um, wow. I didn’t realize how long I’ve been staying at home not having to use this stuff. They’re all sticky and gross. I don’t want to develop nose infection. But I can’t stand those nose hairs either. And have people been seeing them this whole time on my Zoom meetings? Oh SHIT. I know, I’ll just use the scissors for paper and crafts to remove those nasty hairs.

She pulls open a drawer with bigger scissors. This drawer has other office supplies.

Well it’s a bit um BIG. I hope I don’t accidentally cut anything I’m not supposed to cut. But this is better than the gross nose hair scissors. I might get tetanus or something. And this is definitely better than having those ugly evil looking hair peeking out of my nose. I can feel the hair just sneering at me! Uh quick, let’s just cut away.

She focuses and cuts them. Then she relaxes and takes a deep breath.

Phew. No blood on the scissors, I’m not feeling any cuts, and I think I can still smell. I would say that was a success.

She wipes the scissors with tissue, then puts the paper scissors back in the drawer and throws the small scissors into the garbage bin. Turning back towards the mirror, she notices her ears.

Don’t tell me now…(she leans forward sideways, trying to inspect her ears more carefully). Thank goodness. No hair there. I’ve seen some people with thicker ear hair, and I wonder however are they supposed to cut them? I mean, is there a special ear hair shaver? Can you even do that without getting deaf? Well, at least that’s one place my hair is fine and thin and not sneeringly black. Glad I don’t have to worry about that.

Oh dear, all this is just causing me too much anxiety. I need to find something to calm myself down and feel happy again. (She thinks and her eyes spot her cellphone.) Maybe I’ll order one of those homemade dessert my eyebrow tattoo artist is now selling.

She flips over the beauty magazines so the cover is facing down. She then leaves the stage with her phone while making a call to the eyebrow tattoo artist.

Hello, long time no see! Are you healthy? I hope the pandemic and lockdown hasn’t gotten the worst of you? My eyebrows? Yeah you know, I’m not going to worry about that at the moment. Look I get all these pictures of delicious looking homemade desserts…

END OF MONOLOGUE.


Click here to download a pdf version.

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My Acne Journey, part 2

I noticed the vaginal cysts because I started bleeding (having my period) twice a month. The “second” cycle came about two weeks after the usual cycle. It was brown older blood, and it hurt. Like, hell.

I consulted friend, nutritionist, and pharmacist Anna Meiliana (remember her from my very first podcast episode?) about my problem. Well since about 2019 I have been building much healthier lifestyle habits. I exercise daily by walking or swimming (or even diving when I’m on the island!), cut down on the MSG and junk food I eat (I still eat some, but it’s vastly reduced), have a much healthier mental state, and consciously drink a lot of water. I don’t drink alcohol too much. I do smoke from a pipe every once in a while- in once every couple of months so I don’t think it affects my lungs too much. Since the pandemic started, I’ve also gotten much more sleep hours in.

Vaginal cysts.

From this, she deduced that it was probably something hormonal and urged me to check with a gynecologist. I chose Melinda Hospital because it’s one of the best (pricey, but very good) women’s healthcare hospitals in Bandung. People recommended Doctor Julius, and my husband Cung accompanied me.

Dr. Julius was great! Highly recommended if you are looking for a gynecologist in the West Java area. Images from the ultrasonography indeed confirmed the cysts. When I told Doctor Julius about my healthy lifestyle, he also asked if I was taking any hormone pills. Out came the confession about my acne pills.

Needless to say, I stopped those meds. Dr. Julius recommended birth control pills instead for 1 month, with very strict daily timing. I checked up again after a month and the cysts were all gone.

Seeking a Healthier Long-Term Solution to My Acne Journey

But… you know what’s coming right? I had to deal with my reappearing acne again. This time, I was determined to try something more natural to prevent future cysts. And I wasn’t going to try urine therapy again (check out part 1 of this topic). During the lockdown, I experimented with lemons. It didn’t have any bad side effects, but I just felt it was not strong enough. I wanted to exterminate the acne bacteria. Aloe vera proved to be a stronger disinfectant.

For the aloe vera, I simply cut off a small piece of the plant, store the rest in the fridge, and rub it on the inflamed places on my face. If you don’t have a garden, the aloe vera plant should be easily available at grocery stores near you. It’s a great low-cost option. Make sure to do an allergy test though by testing it to a small patch of your skin before rubbing it on your face.

In addition to aloe vera, what has been helping my acne journey includes also AFC supplements, The Skin Diary Squalane Sherbet Cleansing Balm, and Argan Rosy Velvet Moisturizer. I’m happy with the result so far-finally feeling that it’s getting manageable with a better long-term solution than the pills I took when I was younger.

The 5th episode of my podcast is with The Skin Diary’s Anna Febriana Jaelawijaya (another awesome Anna!), so please tune in if you’d like to hear more about The Skin Diary!

Do you have skin woes? How do you deal with it? Share in the comments!

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My Acne Journey, part 1

May 2008, With dear friend Katie Velasco (now Katie Crosby).

I’ve had acne for as long as I can remember. Oops, scratch that – I’ve played piano longer (I started piano when I was 6 years old). What I mean is, it feels like I’ve had acne forever. If you see pictures of my skin looking alright now, it’s probably the Tiktok filter, or just the right light hitting at the perfect moment and I’m quickly pointing to my husband Cung saying “Hurry! Take a photo now!”

My acne journey has gotten better since the lockdown – interesting how the pandemic improved my skin quality. I think it’s a combination of not being out so much in the polluted air of Bandung and Jakarta, getting more sleep, drinking more water, eating great supplements, using aloe vera, and using all-natural skincare products.

Complicated eh? You bet. Way too many factors. That’s skincare for you, especially if you have sensitive or combination skin. It’s seriously way more complicated than relationships.

My skin is much more complicated than any relationship I’ve been in. And I’ve been in a lot.

The first outbreak of my acne journey started in junior high when I was about 14 or 15, and continued on until my mid-20s. I’ve tried everything under the sun, even – look don’t judge me here – even my own urine. I think it’s something called urine therapy. It’s far-out, I know. But I was desperate. I didn’t feel good, nor beautiful.

Drastic Actions

May 2011, in Texas. Taken by roommate Hye Young Lois Bang

When I finally got sick of my acne, I decided to try hormonal meds. The hormones were so strong the dermatologist said I have to stop eating this 1 year before I want to have kids. Well luckily, I didn’t plan to have kids soon. But I did plan to end my acne, whatever it demanded.

So I consumed the meds, and IT WORKED. However, when I was not taking it, my pimples would start to appear. That’s why I kept taking it for about 5 years until 2020.

To be honest, it was fine for those 5 years. My acne disappeared and I was happy. One day, all that hormonal build-up finally showed side effects.

In October 2020 I developed vaginal cysts.

To be continued to part 2.

Acne can be debilitating for self confidence. If you need a reminder of your beauty, read this poem.

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Solar Cancer, Lunar Leo: Understanding Myself Better Through My Natal Chart Interpretation

I met Sundea Salamatahari via her husband Fauzie Wiriadisastra, composer, physicist, and fellow co-founder at the Bandung Philharmonic in 2015. Since then I have had the privilege of her friendship and professional advice as an astrologer. Yes, you heard me right. Sundea studies natal (birth) charts and interprets them professionally for those seeking her help.

I was going through a huge change of my career in 2016. The philharmonic had just been launched, so the level of stress, responsibility, and risk that we took on ourselves were overwhelming. On top of that, I had just gotten out of some very abusive personal relationships (in fact Signs of Emotionally Abusive Relationships is the most read article on my blog). Oky, whom I eventually married in February 2017, was expressing interest in me personally, and I simply did not know what to do.

What I Learned From My Natal Chart

That was the first time I asked Sundea if she could help me read my chart. At first I was a bit scared and nervous. But I had known her for a while, and I trusted her. Thus Sundea read my chart and explained to me what it meant to be a “solar cancer”. My protective shell is very thick because I am incredibly sensitive inside. I am easily hurt, but I don’t show it. She discussed my natural tendencies in a relationship, and what I should be aware of because they were my “default settings.” It was an eye opener! Understanding my “solar cancer” nature helped me navigate personal relationships with much more ease.

Understanding my “solar cancer” nature helped me navigate personal relationships with much more ease.

A couple months ago, Sundea described my other nature: the “lunar leo”. As a “lunar leo”, Sundea showed me that I need a lot of attention from my inner circle. I become lost when that support falters. Leo and Cancer are also two very different natures, so I can sometimes be very confusing to myself and others. She gave me some suggestions on how to handle my differing natures, and how to seek the right audience for myself. I felt like she was reaching into my soul!

I find her readings deeply insightful. Take a look at Sundea’s profile, and if you are looking for a little help understanding yourself, consider the Renjana and Sanubari readings available at the shop.

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How Music Helped Me Deal with My Eating Disorder

This is a summary of my Instagram Live Interview last Friday 15th of Januray 2021 with Mutiara Nusantara International School in Bandung, Indonesia. It was hosted by Mely Sutrisno, School Director. I would like to thank the school and Ms. Mely for making the talk happen.

What is an eating disorder?

Let me give a disclaimer first that I am not a psychologist. I will be sharing what I experienced with eating disorders, from my point of view. There are three common types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Details of each type can be found in this great article by Healthline.

What type of eating disorder did you have? Was there a trigger that started the disorder?

My eating disorder was bulimia nervosa. At that time I was 12 years old, studying in a junior high school in Bandung. I was a very unhappy teenager. My relationship with myself was bad, I did not have a mentor to speak openly regarding emotional issues, plus ideals of beauty from images shown in the media were all factors that contributed to the disorder. The trigger however, was when a friend called me “montok” (which translates into curvy). I thought that being curvy was not beautiful, and so I had to do whatever I could to change my body. I had this disorder for 10 years, until I was 22 years old.

At which point did you realize that this was bad for you, and when did you try to stop?

At that time in Bandung, there was no awareness about eating disorders. So I did not realize that it was a destructive or dangerous habit. When I went to college in Michigan, there was more awareness about various types of disorders. Some people openly talked about their disorders. Student counseling services were also available, and that made me understand that this was something I needed to stop. From then, it took me about 4 more years to be able to heal from the disorder.

Did your family know you were dealing with bulimia? Or did you keep it all to yourself?

I kept it to myself because I was ashamed to be doing this. I did not know how they would react if they knew about my habits. My parents were also busy, so they probably did not notice the symptoms and my behavior patterns. At the time, they probably did not even know that such a disorder existed.

What are some symptoms or behavior patterns for parents of teens to look out for?

In our culture, we can easily miss the symptoms because one of them is eating a lot of food without control. We tend to encourage eating a lot, especially in family gatherings. So eating a lot can be (mistakenly) seen as a good thing. After the binging, I would always go to the bathroom to try to throw it out. So be on the lookout for that-going and staying in the bathroom for a longer period of time after one has eaten a lot of food.

Were you affected also by your social life in school?

For me, not so much. It was more the home situation, including the eating habits in the family. Older people tend to dump food on my plate, making it harder to be in control of my eating. So that’s a good tip for families: don’t put food on people’s plates, or force them to eat more food. Just let them serve themselves.

So how did you manage to stop the habit? How did you distract your emotions?

This is where music comes in for me. In college I studied piano performance so I had to practice 6-8 hours everyday. Piano practice required intense focus and high concentration. Since it was my degree program, I wanted to do it well. I needed to do it well, so I threw myself wholeheartedly into piano. One thing about music is that when we succeed to make better sounds, it feels great! It made me happy. I became proud of myself. (Check out this related post about how being happy helps to build a healthier mindset.)

Another factor was a college roommate that also had the same disorder. We trusted each other and made a pact to try to support and help each other change. This is crucial. I would not have been able to do it by myself.

What are activities would you suggest for teenagers who don’t like music?

Anything that is physical, requires concentration, and makes you happy. Drawing, dancing, sports,…lately I got into diving and that is an activity that requires full concentration underwater plus makes me really happy. But diving can be expensive, so just find another option that fits your budget!

Why should we try to stop the habit? What are the dangers if we live with that disorder?

Well, with anorexia you are malnourishing yourself, so you will be losing out essential nutrients your body needs. With bulimia, I was throwing up everyday. On my worst days I would throw up twice to three times. Imagine all that acid coming up through your system several times a day for years. It causes stomach, esophagus, and oral irritation and damage. Not to mention the emotional and mental destruction you are doing to yourself.

It is quite damaging for the long run. So one really should try to get help from a professional, or at the very least find a supportive community with a positive mindset.

Yes! And don’t get discouraged when you start trying to tell other people. Parents might not know how to react, some friends might not understand, but don’t get discouraged until you are able to find the help you need.

So what would your advise be if a child or friend told you that she/he is struggling with eating disorder?

Do not judge if your child or friend shares something with you. Acknowledge that it takes a lot of effort to be able to speak about it, so receive the words with care and love.

We’re at the end of our talk for today, do you have any last words for our teenagers?

Being a teenager is so difficult isn’t it? I hated being a teenager. But life gets better. As you get older you will have more experiences and be more confident in handling others and handling yourself. Hang in there.

Okay! I think that’s a good end for today. Thank you very much for your time, and I wish the best success for your music, work, and writings.

Thank you so much for the invitation and the opportunity. Have a good evening 🙂

*The full interview (in Indonesian) can be accessed on Sekolah Mutiara Nusantara IGTV.

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Favorite Hand Stretches

My heels hurt if I don’t stretch (read the post on plantar fasciitis), and recently I developed carpal tunnel syndrome due to typing for an extended period of time with the wrong position. You would think being a retired concert pianist and all I would know how to take care of my hands better! Interestingly after I stopped practicing piano 8 hours a day I must have slackened in the care of my wrists. As a result, the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome arrived.

These stretches are great if your wrists are aching, and even better as a prevention before your wrists start hurting. Your hands are incredibly precious assets, so I hope these tips will help you take good care of them. Trust me, carpal tunnel syndrome sucks. The one good thing about all this is that I retired from piano, if not, it would have devastated me. As an author and blogger, I can still type with the help of wrist braces and an elevated position using a wrist rest support pad.

If you have other tips to take care of your hands, please share them in the comments.

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The Excruciating Pain of Plantar Fasciitis

In the beginning of the lockdown, I set myself up to building a new “stay home” routine that would keep me happy and functional. I took walks in the morning and evening, started cooking again (I haven’t cooked in ten years), read a lot of books on my reading list, and kept a very close eye on how I was spending my money. I also picked up something new: gardening. It was a complete joy.

I did all of these inside the house, bare feet. And I did my walks outside with flipflops.

A couple months into the lockdown, my feet started to ache, especially in the morning after I woke up. Then I contracted dengue and had to be admitted in the hospital for one whole week. I was so heavily medicated that I stopped thinking about the ache in my feet. My whole body obviously had more urgent matters to deal with. But a month after the dengue episode, the ache returned and this time even worse than before. On some days I couldn’t even stand up due to the excruciating pain in my heels.

I decided to go to the hospital again, this time to get checked up by an orthopedic.

The diagnose? Plantar Fasciitis. Treatment? Steroid injections.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis is a common foot condition, affecting more women than men. It involves inflammation of the tissue that connects your toes to your heels. One of the reason women are more prone to suffer this is because women who are inside the house taking care of children or other chores are constantly using their feet, and often without proper indoor footwear. Too much standing or walking in high heels can also cause the inflammation.

I was aghast. The injections hurt like (insert some swear words). It really was that painful. And the steroid injections were expensive. They helped, but only for a couple weeks. I had to incorporate new habits such as daily stretches for the feet, inserting silicone gel pads inside my shoes, and wearing padded footwear inside the house. I still do all of this up until today.

Recently I met an older woman and was telling her about the shots. Her reply was “how many shots?” which made me almost pass out. One injection per heel was already traumatic enough for me! Apparently she had to get the shots quite often due to the her chronic pain.

This experience with plantar fasciitis has made me rethink everything about my footwear. The one good thing about all of this is, I think I won’t ever have to wear heels again.

Read more about symptoms and causes of plantar fasciitis here. To see stretches for heel pain, click here.

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Covid Hoax and Hopes – Podcast Episode 1

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A new feature, which is as trendy as trendy gets this year… PODCASTING! In my podcast I interview women around Southeast Asia to bring their unique stories and experiences to empower other women. It’s the perfect way to introduce inspiring voices to this website.

Anna Meiliana, scientist

In this first episode, I interview Anna Meiliana. She is a scientist at Prodia Clinical Laboratorium, but not just any scientist. Anna is the scientific assistant for the chairman of the company. It’s safe to say she has the insider’s information on scientific progression of the virus which changed all of our lives this year. “Covid Hoax and Hopes” covers her current clinical experiments, to an in depth explanation of different types of tests, predictions on vaccines, and all the way to how this situation has changed her life habits. Listen in –all you have to do is click play!

Leave some questions in the comments, and maybe Anna will answer them in a future episode! If you want to share your story with me, let me know via the contact form.

The first episode is with special thanks to BASE Recording Studio.