Why I Care a Lot About the Way I Look When I'm Sick

I care a lot about the way I look.

While I don’t spend hours applying makeup in front of the mirror, I do ensure I look somewhat presentable before stepping out of the house. This can be a struggle on bad days, but still I try. Why?

I have spent a lot of time in hospitals, sharing my personal space with others. Once, I saw an old woman being nasty to everyone around her. It struck me that I was becoming just like her; I didn’t recognize myself anymore, even detested it.

How had I arrived at that state? I had been struggling for an extended period of time by then, and I had become sick of being sick. I was frustrated by the unpredictability and, worst of all, the lack of hope for better days on the horizon.

That bitter core we tapped into didn’t happen overnight. It is a gradual process, the kind that happens in dribs and drabs so you never feel the harshness of a direct blow. It begins with the thought, “Just for today,” which ends up becoming a regular affair. The first layer is the physical one — our appearances and how we present ourselves to the world.

When that layer peels away for whatever reason — pain, exhaustion, grief — beneath it lies the more vital layers of emotional and psychological well-being. When we allow these layers to be defiled by whatever it was that tore the top off, we begin that slow journey of degenerating into an inhuman version of ourselves.

When we arrive at that state, we may no longer care if we are nasty towards others, appear ungrateful or crude. Often that behavior may be a reflection of how we feel on the inside. So if you meet someone unpleasant, it might just be that they are going through a difficult time.

Our physical appearances are visible, unlike the unseen problems festering beneath the skin. It is one thing we can improve, a mental exercise that can be tougher than it looks at times.

Perhaps you might say the first physical layer is a superficial one, and of course, I let it slip now and then when the pain is too much to bear. But I have also learned the longer I can fight to keep that layer on, the slower I unravel into that bitter core.

So that is why I try.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one unexpected source of comfort when it comes to your (or a loved one’s) disability and/or disease? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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