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How My Face Changed Over 3 Years While on Steroids for Lupus

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This is a comparison of my face from 2015, 2016 and 2017, all from around the same time of the year:

In other words, pre-diagnosis of lupus, when I was on about 40 mg of Prednisolone and nowadays when I’m on 10 mg.

I like looking at the contrast between non-moon face, utter moon face and nearly gone moon face to remind myself that it wasn’t permanent.

I used to think I wasn’t very vain or fixated with my physical appearance. Then I realized it was because I’ve always been more or less comfortable with the way I looked, and when that was taken away from me by Prednisolone my self-esteem just crashed. It’s silly to be so preoccupied with how my face looked different – but being unable to recognize myself in photos was a shock, and when you’re only 22 and you feel like you’ve already lived your best looking days, it can feel like a huge loss.

Chronic illness can take away a lot of things – self-esteem, carefree days, quality of life, as well as your health. It can also change things such as your physical appearance, way of life and even goals and ambitions. The impact isn’t just on your body in terms of organs or symptoms, but it has an impact on how you see life and yourself through a different lens. Even when you appear normal to others. And not being able to recognize your own face or feeling like it’s a face that isn’t yours adds to this. Your sense of personal identity changes.

So I increased my use of make-up, got extra layers in my hair, avoided contact lenses so my glasses could frame my face, felt silly getting dressed up feeling like I shouldn’t have bothered, avoided guys so I didn’t fall into the f***boy trap when I was feeling low, admired how my more confident friends could just expect guys to like them and only took selfies with filters. When one random classmate once told me how beautiful he thought I was, I nearly cried. Then I got angry with myself for how grateful I was to hear that from a random classmate, when it should be me telling myself that. I also had to deal with being unable to fit into some clothes and losing what little muscle mass I had.

Anyone on it can tell you – Prednisolone is a bitch.

I didn’t have any sudden revelation or overwhelming acceptance of who I am, sad to say. But hey, maybe this can just be a friendly reminder to myself and anyone else struggling with Prednisolone that it may not be permanent. And all those frustrating feelings you have, the times you want to cry – or have cried – we’ve all been there. There is a huge community of people who understand completely.

It’s hard for anyone when we live in a world that is image obsessed. But it helps to remember that your personality will always be awesome because you’re a fighter, a listener and a sympathizer.

This post originally appeared on Inside a Mind.

Originally published: June 2, 2017
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