For many of us we have spent most of our lives in the land of billboard signs, the diet pills, the fashion commercials and the fitness fads, and then one day while we are in the middle of our life plans things start to awry.
You start noticing some things that don’t feel like they used to, work like they used, behave like the used to and either 1. do your best to try and ignore it, compensate for it, hide it or 2. you go to the doctor and you may find yourself being diagnosed with a life changing illness which you have never heard of before.
If you are lucky some of these illnesses have very few ‘visible’ signs and not too many symptoms, so you can continue to live a somewhat ‘normal’ life with maybe a few modifications and a bit of medication. If you are not at this end of the scale… well lets just say the scale can go the other way and can be close to a living nightmare. Sometimes what was once invisible, becomes more visible and what was ‘controllable’ unravels quickly.
So if you are one of that feel into the group which deal with swelling, TERRIBLE pain, bone destruction, warping joints, drooping limbs, shaking hands, walking difficulties (not unlike a drunk newborn giraffe), vision issues, burning skin, swallowing problems, loss of bladder and bowel control, skin lesions etc then you probably have had to face the fact that you aren’t going to be appearing on the cover of vogue anytime soon.
Is it vanity not to want these things? Is it vanity to struggle with liking your body again when it no longer co-operates with you? Is it vanity that we have probably put on weight due to the constant medications we take to stop further progression of these diseases? Is it vanity that we cant afford to have our hair and make up done or maintain our appearance as we once liked it? Especially if you can no longer work and afford a lot of the things you once did to help you feel better about yourself or your body just can’t manage to do those things ie hair, nails, facials, pedicures, tanning etc
If you are placed in these circumstances and have no choice but to accept the hand you are dealt, it is a huge battle to have to rebuild your self esteem again and make a peace with the body you have to share with an illness (or illnesses). Sometimes it would be easier to nail jello to a wall! But you are most definitely not alone.
A lot of how we see ourselves and how we are seen by others, is at the exterior level. For men I am sure they carry a similar burden, although they may find the struggle moves more to how physical they can be with their bodies, how sporting or how strong and productive. When the physical is compromised the fall out is very real and probably makes up 3/4 of the overall battle with illness, disease and disability.
Support sites are crying out with pain of the loss of control of our physicality and our ‘looks’ and for some people it has started very early in life. I have spent my share of time playing “I hate my body!” and “why can’t I look like her?” and I will probably go there again the next time I see someone wearing a dress I once wore, or shoes I once liked or even doing things I once enjoyed doing.
Diseases, illnesses and health challenges like these strip you down naked and FORCE you to ask the question…”what am I really worth and how much does my outside really matter in the big picture??” I makes you think, look, act and feel like someone 3 times our age without all the living and opportunities that those years might have allowed you.
So now, I get up everyday, try my best to look neat and tidy, move as much as I can, enjoy life in its very simplest form before the day leaves me aching, shaking, slurring, coughing and half blind. I am thankful for no EXTRA sores. I am thankful for the hair I DO have. I am grateful for the what is still here and hope it doesn’t worsen anytime soon. Is this vanity? Maybe. Yes. But it is also human.
Thankfully my husband knew me before as well as now. Thankfully he is the type of man who says “I love you no matter what” … and he means it. I hope very soon to be able to say those same words to myself, all the time, every time, and mean it. I think I am a lot closer today than I was 10 years ago. I can’t take all the credit though, that has been a combined efforts of my husband, my fur kids, my garden, my artwork, my supporters, my friends, my loved ones, my autoimmune family and me.