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I Know I Look Tired, and I Am Proud

It is not uncommon for someone to comment on how tired I look. I know I look tired, thank you. Whether the observation comes from a stranger or friend, however, it still tricks me into believing that my outward appearance is anything less than striking. While beautiful things may grow from peace and perfection, they blossom from chaos and adversity.

So I must remind myself not to be ashamed of my greasy, messy hair. There is no shame in rocking the same ponytail day in and day out if that is all my body allows. I try in vain to keep the smudged mascara a secret, too. It is unwanted evidence of my tears, of the way my eyes water when my stomach acid works its way up to my mouth, of my failed attempts to keep from rubbing at my eyes when I am exhausted. The results are sad eyes and a dampened spirit. They also happen to be undeniable evidence of my resilience.

I know I don’t dress particularly well either, and that’s OK. The limited energy I have is better spent feeding myself, remembering to take my medications, or dragging myself to the bathroom. If you could see underneath my sweatpants and baggy shirts, however, you’d see I am skinny in some parts and quickly gaining weight in others. The fading memories of summer days spent running miles are replaced by the harsh reality of struggles up the stairs and across parking lots. Yet whether it be a foot or a mile — I am doing my best.

The exponentially darkening circles under my eyes are unmistakable. They are souvenirs of nights spent in agony. Shooting, stabbing pains and inflammation that keep me up no matter how tired I am. None of my peers or coworkers will ever know this part of my life. I myself will only vaguely remember begging a higher power for peace the next morning, when I hope and pray for the best.

The braces I sport on my wrists are so I have a fighting chance of using them that day. At times, my braces are the only outward sign that there is anything wrong, and yet being able to rely on my body to catch me is no longer something I can take for granted. I know now that my hands are gifts, and the moments I am able to use them are blessings.

I work hard to keep in mind that all these things are exactly what make me a warrior. It is a constant back and forth between mourning who I used to be and accepting what is happening to my body now. It is easier to make peace with my situation on some days than on others.

Nothing is sacred with chronic illness. It leaves no stone in your life unturned. It took sleep, and peace with it. It stole hunger, hope, and convenience. It took everything I thought I was, so I filled the space with strength, persistence, and a fire in my heart. I refused to fall, so I blossomed.

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Thinkstock photo by Olarty