Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Can the same be said for health?
I think the average American would look at health and say either you are sick or you are not. And then they would look at someone like me (and this has happened before) and would tell me “you are too pretty to be sick/have a chronic illness”. But what is health? What is attractiveness? And is it all subjective?
Before my chronic illnesses degraded my health, I used to enjoy looking nice. I wore makeup, brushed my hair and wore nice clothes. But now that I have been in mass amounts of debilitating pain for months and months, I haven’t touched makeup in that long. My hair often goes unbrushed as I am just too exhausted or brain fogged to remember. And now my main method of choosing clothes is by comfort level. I can’t wear jeans or any kind of restricted waistband right now because it puts too much pressure on my bladder and pelvic floor. Now I stick to leggings (well sweater leggings for the winter) and sweatpants. Along with slip-on boots which I often need help putting on because I struggle to lift my leg up high enough to put my foot in. Fortunately, my boyfriend Aaron, helps me put my boots on whenever he is around.
But here is what I’m saying … I don’t feel attractive. I don’t feel pretty. I don’t feel like myself. See picture below of me looking beyond exhausted wearing my migraine hat, which is an ice pack wrap made especially for migraineurs. I have two of them, one that I keep at my home and one that I keep at Aaron’s home. And as silly as this migraine hat might look, it really helps my migraines. Would I wear it out in public? I haven’t yet, but I would ..yes.
Isn’t that the thing about being chronically ill? You have to really make a lot of sacrifices and that includes sacrificing how you look. So now I no longer wear makeup or nice clothes…I have to wear migraine glasses in public which are okay but not exactly the fashion statement I want to be making. I get a lot of comments on them. But the fact is …they help reduce my migraines a lot and that is all that matters. Do I like the way I look in them? Not really.
If a chronically ill person goes out with people and passes for normal because they dress nicely and/or put makeup on…it’s very likely they will be accused of faking having a chronic illness if other people know about it. There is very much a prescribed notion of what sickness looks like. But I want to tell you that sickness isn’t always easy to see. I can easily hide my chronically ill-rundown-exhausted-look with some makeup and a bit of hair brushing. Okay, so even without makeup, I still don’t technically look sick.
But even still, How can I look attractive when I don’t feel attractive? I don’t feel desirable or wanted. This is not a new phenomenon or specific to me. There are blogs and articles dedicated to this issue, like How to feel sexy when you are in pain?
Just this morning I was in so much pain from physical therapy yesterday that I could barely move, let alone walk. I needed a shower so Aaron helped me. I couldn’t even lift my leg over the bathtub to get in, he had to help me with that and the whole time my legs were shaking. And still, he says I look beautiful and I’m like…yea not really. How can I possibly look beautiful when I am in this much pain? It makes no sense. But he says he knew what he was getting into since I told him very early on about my IC. I can only hope he knows what he is talking about.
When it comes to looks and chronic illness, another huge issue that tends to pop up often is weight. Because of my chronic illnesses, I have difficulty keeping weight on but overall it fluctuates depending on if I’m in a flare. When I am flaring up really badly, I eat less and therefore lose weight…which is quite noticeable to those around me. People will say things like “Wow! you look so thin!” like it’s a compliment??? But I’m only this thin because I am in so much pain and couldn’t eat like I usually do. It’s this big vicious cycle.
So do I feel pretty? no.
Do I feel pretty sick? You bet you sweet effing bottom I do.