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Yes, You Can Wear Jewelry and Be in Pain at the Same Time

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I wear a lot of jewelry each day. Bracelets, earrings, necklace, anklet and nine rings.

My jewelry is one way I express myself. Each piece I wear has significance and meaning. In a way, my jewelry is a visible representation of my personality.

I see no connection between how I feel physically and the jewelry choices I make each day. My undifferentiated connective tissue disease isn’t readily visible. My UCTD manifests as pain, fatigue and weakness in my left leg. I feel it every day, even if others can’t see it.

And this seems to create some amount of confusion for friends and acquaintances. Being adorned in jewelry doesn’t match their preconceived ideas of what I should look like while in pain. As if the presence of my jewelry means my pain couldn’t possibly be as bad as I claim.

“But your jewelry always matches,” one person told me.

“Yet, you’ve got earrings on,” another person said.

It’s important to remember many people don’t look “sick,” whatever your definition of sick may be. But that doesn’t mean many people aren’t still going through their days with chronic, often painful, illnesses/conditions/disorders/diseases. They just aren’t visible upon first glance.

I have always enjoyed jewelry. I remember, as a little girl, pretending to be a “movie star,” walking around our family’s living room wearing my red plastic sunglasses, plastic beads around my neck, and plastic clip-on earrings dangling from my ears.

While my jewelry is now more silver than plastic, one thing remains the same. I wear my jewelry for me. Not to impress anyone else.

I’m not trying to get noticed. I’m not looking for compliments.

Maybe I’m wearing my jewelry to convince myself that it’s not “that bad.” That though I can’t walk as fast or as far, I can still put my earrings on. Though I can’t always finish grocery shopping without fighting back tears, I can wear a necklace that complements my earrings.

But really, the longer I live with this autoimmune disease (10 years now), the more I realize I’m wearing my jewelry because I’m trying to hold onto a piece of myself. I’m trying to continue to be the “Wendy” I have always been.

I can’t control my muscle twitching. I can’t control my calf tightening, similar to the way you feel when the blood pressure cuff tightens around your arm. I can’t control the sense of heaviness I feel in my left leg, as if I have invisible weights strapped on.

But I can control my jewelry choices.

The next time someone comments on my jewelry choices, I hope it is independent of my medical condition. I hope they see the jewelry as what it is. Sweet: a ring engraved with my son’s name and birthdate. Meaningful: a single pearl earring (for the second hole in my right ear) given by my husband on our 20th wedding anniversary. Colorful: a heart-shaped, opal ring I bought myself soon after my son was born.

Compliment the jewelry. Not your surprise that I’m wearing it.

Getty image by Cokacoka.

Originally published: December 14, 2020
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