the unmentioned side effect of chronic illness

I’ve started working on my book. . . so I’ve started doing lots and lots of thinking. . .

Since my book deals with illness and body changes and size and health and weight loss and body image, there is so much to consider.

As I was drafting the introduction, some things came to mind that really resonated with me, especially as I’m working towards a huge change in myself and beginning to coach others to do the same.

And I saw this lovely prayer from the Book of Hours (a Middle Ages church text):

And I am determined to write all of the truth, no matter how ugly.

So, what is so on my heart right now is this. . .

When I began to get really ill, there were some major physical changes that came quickly and relatively close together: I gained a significant amount of weight, I lost my hair, and my eyes literally began rejecting my contacts so I had to start wearing my glasses all of the time.

All. At. The. Same. Time.

Thinking over those things, I realized that:

  •  I have always placed an incredible amount of my self-worth in my weight and size, to the point that I would often feel just terribly unattractive if I had gained even a pound or two. So now? I’ve found myself subconsciously trying to avoid events because I am SO FREAKING EMBARRASSED by this size.  Nothing fits right. My meds make me unbelievably swollen some days. Much of the weight is in my stomach – which I was always self-conscious about anyway. The prednisone causes these giant red marks – that are much worse than pregnant stretch marks – which are just hell on my self-esteem. It has been a HARD thing to deal with.
  • I always HATED wearing my hair short. Even if a stylist would cut it a little shorter than I liked, it just didn’t feel feminine to me and I didn’t like it. So having no hair just felt plain UGLY. There is no easy way to say it. Just ugly.
  • I don’t know if it’s some holdover from kids being mean when I was young – I started wearing glasses in the 3rd grade-  or just a strange hangup I have but I have never liked wearing my glasses. I’ve just felt unattractive in them, to the point that I would find a way to wear my contacts in the middle of sinus infections, allergy season, whatever obstacle. . . So, in the midst of all of my other symptoms, my eyes became so dry and inflamed that I literally could not put them in. Fantastic.

As all of that happened at the same time, I felt so frumpy, unattractive, just gross. It was incredibly distressing.

And then I realized, having been emptied of all of the things that made me feel pretty, just how much of my self-worth I was placing in my appearance.

As the lovely queen, Adele, calls it, I was placing much of my value in my Drag Self 🙂 , the dressed up, made up version of me. The external.

When all of that is stripped away, though, I am still me: the woman, the wife, the mom, the daughter, the friend, the writer, the nurse, the coach, the helper, the giver. Nothing essential changed.

I also realized that I never think of other women in such light. The women I admire I see for their spirit, their heart, their talents, who they are – never their appearance.

As seems to be a common affliction, I am only so harshly judgemental of myself.

As I am moving forward with my goals:

  • I am working toward losing weight for my health, not to fit into a smaller size. It’s much more important for me to feel better and be as healthy as I can be, to continue living out my purpose and doing the things I love. That’s what is important.
  • My hair is growing back curly and Farrah style – and I’m just thankful that it is coming back. However, if my new treatments cause it to come out again, I am prepared for it. I want to do whatever it takes to become more mobile and reduce my joint damage and pain.
  • As for the glasses, I’ve just had to let that go. And my amazing better half surprised me with the most fabulous Wonder Woman glasses ever – that I will be picking up later today. And I will rock them.

It’s my hope that, as I’ve acknowledged these things, I can use them to be a better coach for other women who are having similar issues.

I will be breaking out my hippy dippy post it notes and mantras and deep breathing and meditating, while I’m reading all of the books and doing all of the writing and continuing all of the research to address these things.

I also realized that I need to be working on this, because, as it has happened with me, it is so common among those of us living with chronic illnesses to have these experiences. There is so much loss: function, appearance, career. . . It is all a huge blow.

So, friends, even on our helluva days:

We are not our exterior.

We have intrinsic value.

We are worth so much more.

Be well, everybody. Happy Friday.

Grace and blessings.






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