My New Definition of Beauty Since Becoming Chronically Ill
It seems like I’ve watched my body slowly deplete over time due to my chronic Lyme disease. I know nobody sees it except for a few people that I hold very close to my heart, but to my own two eyes, I look sick. It’s one thing to feel sick, but it’s another thing to watch yourself be sick. Watching my body disintegrate to what feels like nothing is incredibly scary for me. Honestly, I want want my old body back. I want to feel the age I actually am. I want to be able to run and not feel like I’m going to pass out. I want to walk like I used to. I want to be able to carry myself with posture and grace. I want the color in my face to come back, and I want my hair to grow back to its original length. I want to gain the 20 pounds that I lost. I want to feel and look like me again.
Despite all the insecurity and hopes for my body to regenerate itself, I’ve learned a lot about myself since I’ve been diagnosed. My perspective of my body and how I see myself has definitely changed, and these changes are perspectives that I will hopefully keep with me all throughout my life, Lyme or no Lyme.
1. I can be beautiful despite how I feel physically or emotionally about myself.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
This has currently become one of my favorite quotes. I figure I haven’t quite found my way out of the depths yet, but I hope to reach that destination one day. I’ve known defeat, suffering, struggle and loss. These are all things that I have agonized over and over again in my head as I’ve gone through trial after trial. I’ve watched myself bloom into an entirely different person than how I was before I suffered. I suppose that happens to all of us as we suffer and grow stronger. You don’t grow and progress in a state of comfort. You grow and progress in states of misery, pain, fear and so many other forms of suffering that we as human beings go through.
2. Having a healthy body is a matter of taking care of yourself and balancing your life out in all aspects.
I’ll never forget my high school physical education classes I had the pleasure of experiencing while I was growing up. The concept that I acquired from those classes are that if you work yourself to a pulp working out every day, then somehow you’re supposedly healthy and in shape. My experiences in those classes were less than pleasant. It was simply a long line of teachers who worked their students incredibly hard and then claimed that it was healthy for them. Well, let me inform you that for me it just meant waking up every day for the next week with aching joints and muscles and not wanting to even get out of bed. No offense to all of those teachers of times past, or to even teachers now, but you’re teaching physical education completely wrong.
Keeping your body healthy and strong isn’t a matter of working out so hard that your body can’t move the next morning. Health is all about balance in all things that take place throughout your daily life. Eating healthy, a healthy amount of exercise and filling your mind and heart with healthy pastimes are all a part of improving your physical health. Being sick all the time has taught me that maybe I can’t go on a long run everyday, and maybe when I walk on the treadmill I have to walk at the lowest setting, but that’s the level that my personal self is at. That’s all my body can take, and that’s OK. Living a healthy lifestyle is something we all have to work toward, and for me it’s hard. I hate exercising. Just as some people may hate eating healthy food. But we can always progress in life. I’ve come to know that through living a healthy balanced lifestyle, I can feel healthy and do things to improve my physical self, despite my chronic illness.
3. My scars do not make me ugly, but instead they signify strength in overcoming hard things.
Throughout my life I’ve developed a lot of scars. I once drew a picture of what I thought my heart would look like if you could transfer it to piece of paper. Pretty beaten up, right? On a creative, tangible level, that’s how I pictured it at the time. I had been through a lot, and I needed a visual to get my thoughts straight. I suppose if I drew a current picture of my heart it would look quite different. There would still be scars, open wounds, and maybe even a knife or two gouging out a portion of it. But there would be a special part of my heart that has been healed from past experiences. Healed through patience, hope, faith, prayer, and lot of love from I believe my Heavenly Father, and from the people around me.
I don’t just have scars on my heart. Chronic Lyme is to blame for not just emotional scars, but physical scars as well. I don’t like talking about my physical scars. I don’t like drawing attention to them. I don’t like their existence. But despite the scarring that will hopefully fade with time, I don’t believe that scars make me ugly in any way. A scar, whether it be physical or emotional, is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and perseverance. I used to think my scars were a mark of defeat. But I’ve come to know that they are truly a mark of beauty and continuance of healing. As they continue to fade, they remind me of my journey with chronic illness and how far I’ve come. I hope one day I’ll be able to look back and hardly see them at all, but know what I went through to heal completely. Some of the horrible things I’ve experienced through this illness I will always hold close to my heart simply because they’ve taught me a lot and helped me to grow as a person. My scars will be one of those things. Even as they fade, I still hold them close as a reminder of my incredible journey.
4. I’m not beautiful because of how I look; I’m beautiful because of who I am.
Beauty comes from prayer and through our trials and afflictions. I’m not beautiful because of the amount of makeup I use to cover up my gray face. I’m not beautiful because I wear less than a size two and have a thigh gap that is apparently “attractive” according to social media. I’m not beautiful for any physical aspect of me. In fact right now, I feel sick and ugly. I used to think if I looked a certain way I would be beautiful. That’s as far from truth as it gets. Beauty doesn’t come from outward appearances, but from inward struggle, testimony and I believe purpose given to us by God.
Follow this journey on Chronically Beautiful.
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