Just a "zebra" trying my best to live life to the fullest with EDS and POTS...and loving the ride.

Feeling Beautiful Despite Chronic Illness

Written by Katie. Posted in Chronic Illness, Editorials, Favorites, Invisible Illness, Lists

Let’s face it.  It’s hard to feel attractive in your own skin when you feel like your body is turning on you. 

I have been sick and a size 10.  I have been sick and a size 0.  I have realized that no matter what size I am, if I am sick, I struggle with feeling beautiful in my own skin.  I remember becoming sicker and sicker, and people would continue to tell me how great I looked.  I’m sure I looked at a few of these people like they had three eyes.  I may have looked great, but honestly at times, I felt like I was dying.  That is the thing about having an invisible illness.  There are times when it can all feel like a cruel joke.

It’s hard to feel attractive when you are crawling from room to room…or when your stomach is distended from Gastroparesis…or when you’re throwing up because you are so dizzy and your blood pressure has plummeted…or when you are taking a shower and some of your hair falls out because you are not getting enough blood to your brain.  It’s hard to feel attractive when your fatigue is so severe, you feel as if you have a never-ending case of the flu.

But in my opinion it is possible and it’s something that takes time and conscious effort.  As I have learned to live with EDS and POTS, I have found that the following strategies often help me:

  1. Find a purpose.  When I am working towards something I feel really passionate about, I feel good in my own skin.
  2. Give.  When I am doing something for someone else, I can’t help but feel better about myself.
  3. Have a sense of humor.  Find a way to laugh at yourself.  If you have to wear the horribly, ugly compression stockings that roll down the minute you get them on because they help you stay upright longer, make a joke about how sexy they make you feel.
  4. Once in a while, get dressed up and strut your stuff.  This year I have worn more dresses to school.  When people comment that “I’m so dressed up” I usually just shrug it off…but in the back of my head, I am more often than not thinking about the year I could not work and became so sick of the same few pairs of yoga pants I wore day in and day out.  At times, you should not underestimate the power of a beautiful pair of earrings or a new shirt.
  5. Accomplish a goal.  Nothing makes me feel more in control of my body then when I accomplish something I have worked hard for, or even fought for.
  6.  When people tell you, you look great try saying thanks.  And then believe them.  They usually mean it, and are speaking out of love and kindness.  This is something I continue to work on.
  7. Do something for your body.  Believe it or not, I have come to realize that it is not my enemy.  It is begging to be loved and cared for; especially during my sickest times.  Eat healthy.  Drink a lot of water.  Make a lifestyle change.  Take a nap.  Strengthen muscles…even if you have to lie on the floor to do so.  I believe there is always some kind of exercise you can do to help your body.  At physical therapy, I watch a man with ALS who cannot speak and does not have much time left, be carried from exercise to exercise.  I always think of him when I need a good kick in the butt.
  8. Sleep and rest.  Sleep is my best friend.  I feel the best after I’ve had plenty of rest.  People who know me best, know not to mess with my sleep.
  9. Surround yourself with positivity.  When you are around people who bring out your best self, it is hard not to let your light shine through.
  10. Finally, practice positive self-talk.  We are our biggest critics.  Give yourself a break once in a while and tell yourself you are beautiful.  This is the body you have for life.  You can either choose to hate it or love it.  Find the beauty within and love it to the core.

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Comments (5)

  • Robin N


    I agree with all of the above, especially 9 and 10. When you have children or are around children. especially girls, I think it is vital to “fake till you make it” when you use positive self talk. We think nothing of praising them and telling them theyre beautiful, smart, fun but then we turn around a model the exact opposite for ourselves! What hypocrites! “Sally you are beautiful!” then she walks by us in the mirror and hears us saying to ourselves “Gah, could I look any fatter in these jeans?”
    We are not walking the walk. IMHO. This is honestly my biggest resolution for 2013. To let my daughters hear me speak kindly of myself. Not in a vain way but sincere and honest. Sure I may be happier with my body in another 30 pounds but sure as happier with it now than when I was 40 pounds ago! So I need to celebrate that, it
    really does help my outlook.

    As for #9, that is hugely important! There are people who have it so much worse than I do but I have a great attitude. There are also who have it better with horrible attitudes, surround me with the ones who think they can do it any day of the week. We mirror what we see, grand visions bring grand realities!

    As for what I do, or want to focus more on, I want to improve my time management skills so when I feel good I can take advantage of it. Not overdue, mind you, but learn a happy medium. Just because I used to be able to be in charge of 4 different committees all over town and volunteer everywhere doesnt mean I can now, but it also doesnt mean I cant do anything. I ask my kids teachers if they need anything done from home. They are often thrilled to hand over some typing or whatever odd jobs they may have. It is a time suck for them but it makes me feel worthwhile. I can also be on one committee maybe…. I can still go to concerts and travel to see people but maybe I dont do it as often or maybe I have to sit closer to the back so I wont bother anyone when I have to get up to stretch out. I can modify a LOT of what I used to do so I dont feel like I am missing out.


  • Tonya


    Great post and so true, Katie! It’s something I’ve been thinking about and working on. 
    A long time struggle I’ve is that Florinef causes breakouts. As far as a beauty routine I put more effort into skin care than makeup because of it. It’s taken a lot of trial and error but finally gotten it to be bearable. 

    Still working on the weight thing. when I’m the sickest, I’m the skinniest. Since starting a beta blocker I’ve gained 10 pounds and it always goes through my mind before I go somewhere that my butt is bigger and my face noticeably chubbier to me. And I have to ask myself is being able to do more worth a few extra pounds and some self consciousness?  Yes.  I’m not fat. I’m not fat. 

    I normally don’t wear makeup, jewelry,  or do my hair it’s takes to much energy. Besides I hardly ever go anywhere but I look at great hairstyles and long for things like that :(. I’m guilty of sweats but recently got a bunch of leggings and tunics (that look like dresses on my short body) its been fun this week wearing prettier clothes and it helped take away from those 10 pounds 🙂 the benefit of leggings I can do any exercise without feeling constructed cause you c hanging clothes a few times a day takes energy.

    I’ve dealt with a frenemy with mito who was critical of me for not dressing up and she was harsh about my fb pics because I look tired in them. She spends an hour on her hair and an hour on her makeup, then edits her pics. If I did that I’d he gorgeous!  It was hurtful. I was remembering this the other day because my mom took a pic of me on Christmas and wants to put it on fb, my initial thought was “no, I look tired” and then I thought I should put it up, I was sitting up! And had a pretty necklace on i got for christmas and a pretty shirt. Who cares if I looked tired, I was, it was a crazy day. Ok, so I’m still trying o convince myself that it’s ok I looked tired but still. 

    I also like fun socks. And a smile at least no matter what I have a big smile. 🙂 

    I need to work on positive self talk this year and balance activity & rest.


  • Stacy


    This will be short and sweet…thank you from the bottom of my heart for posting this. I needed desperately to hear this from someone else who is walking down a similar path. <3


  • Rachel


    Love this post. just great!


  • Jenn


    Thank you. Wonderful advice that I will refer back to regularly…already bookmarked this page!! Brightest Blessings to you & yours!!


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