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I Never Thought Much About My Appearance – Until Illness Caused It to Change

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I’ve never been very bothered about my physical appearance. I almost never wear make-up and when I do, it is sparingly; I do not keep up with fashion trends and instead wear what I like and what is comfortable; I do not spend hours or lots of money doing my hair, and I’m happy with a simple braid or little straightening; I do not diet excessively and have always been happy with my figure which was naturally slim, although not very flattering. I was never the prettiest or most popular girl in school, but I never felt the need to change that. I was happy with how I looked and liked to say that everyone should be, although I didn’t really understand how it felt not to be.

This changed, however, when I was about 16 and my health started to decline more rapidly.

There are a number of factors which contributed to my change in comfort with my appearance. First was my stomach condition, which meant that I could drop to underweight and malnourished in just a couple of weeks.

Then, some of my tablets would cause me to gain weight, which was not helped by my inability to exercise when I was ill.

And, even if I was lucky enough that my weight would balance out for a little while, I was still left with stretch marks all over from it changing so often and rapidly. There was also the issue of me being too ill most days to shower, meaning that my hair often became greasy. If I was also too ill to brush it or was tossing in bed, it would become matted at the back, too. It became difficult to hold a hair dryer or straighteners and some days even holding a hair brush was impossible. These seem like simple things that most people wouldn’t even have to think about, but to me they were some of the biggest challenges I faced each day.

When I look in the mirror now, it’s like I am looking at a different person and, no matter how hard I try, I will never be the same again.

But these stretch marks and disfigurements are battle scars. Every day, I am fighting an invisible war within myself, and every day I have survived it; these changes in my body are proof of this. I shouldn’t be ashamed of how I look because of the battles I face, I should be proud. If anything, they are a badge of honor and I should not be worried about what others might think.

If someone sees one of my stretch marks or thinks I am overweight and judges me because of this, then that says more about them than it does about me. My body has achieved incredible things and every day it suffers and fights and triumphs over my illnesses. Although it may not always be easy to remember, I should be, and I am, proud of it. The beauty of my body is enhanced by its changes and, as it continues to transform, it will become even more magnificent.

Getty image via Viktor_Gladkov

Originally published: March 14, 2019
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