What I Realized About Fibromyalgia From Finally Looking at Pictures of Myself

I have a chronic condition. Well actually, I have several, but the one that is most obvious to other people is my physical illness – and that’s because I now use a stick when I am able to help me to walk. But I also have some serious mental health issues which are maybe not so obvious from the outside, but with which I struggle on a daily basis, at least as much as with the physical issues.

A few days ago, I was doing something which I would normally never ever do because I find it so distressing; but I set myself a challenge, and started to look through some pictures of myself – recent ones – to share with my significant other, who doesn’t really have any images of me because I hate them so much.

I really have to concentrate very, very hard to be able to actually see myself in mirrors and photographs. Over the years I have found that I actually blank out pictures of me because I have such issues around identity and image. What I found, when I eventually managed to look properly, was such a shock to me.

I have never really understood that how I feel can be reflected in how I look, necessarily. I did know that I could (and did) use makeup as a mask, wearing it at times when I felt most threatened and anxious in order to make myself feel less exposed and vulnerable.

The pictures here were all taken within months of each other.

woman wearing makeup and taking a selfie

They are all me – from times when I felt stable and able to cope, to the exhausting, painful aftermath of a fibro flare, to the sad results of medication and my inability to exercise or even mobilize the way I was used to, which had enabled me to lose a huge amount of weight, which I have regained with interest.

woman taking a selfie with no makeup

Seeing these for the first time has been hard, but it has also helped me to accept that I am in no way embellishing my conditions.

woman dressed up as an evil pixie

They do affect me, probably more than I realize at times, and I need to learn to be kinder to myself.

woman wearing glasses and no makeup

It has also shown me that my SO genuinely loves me, not just the way I look, or my shape. He sees me in every state, supports me when I am at my lowest as well as when I am at my best, and he is the one who reminds me not only that I’m not superhuman, but that I don’t have to be. I’m not perfect, but I am perfect for him. Now I need to learn to love myself as much as he loves me.

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