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Chronic Illness Takes its​ Toll on Our Looks

Okay, so I survived the humbling (or is that humiliating????) experience of posting my first video yesterday. That was one of the top ten hardest things I have done during this last 6 years of the latest health crash. Guess I still have more vanity issues to work on. Now that I woke up this morning and realize that I survived the challenge, it is time to keep moving through this.

Yep, yesterday was super hard. Your responses verify why it was so hard. I know…… I look nothing like I used to. And that is going to be my point for today.

When chronic illness has taken its toll, what do we really think we are supposed to look like????

Most of us get stuck here. I know I just cannot believe that tiny bubbly little ole me could possibly look like this person I now find unrecognizable. The last 6 years my body has been trashed with disease.

No one would even believe how little I eat and how well I actually do take care of myself. What I normally hear is, “what happened,” “yep, you got old too,” “its just hormones, you will get over it,” and my favorite, “be glad it’s not cancer.” Whew, no wonder I went into hiding. It gets tricky to keep a cheerful attitude.

That is why I did what I did yesterday. The decision to be that vulnerable was painful. Had you asked me a week ago, I was still claiming there was no way in tarnation I would do such a thing.

Then life happened. I hit more roadblocks than usual and realized that my appearance has been such an emotional barrier for me that it was time. I want all of you to be vulnerable until it hurts, but ME, noooooo way.

So I accepted your challenge and dug in. The goal is for it to get me past some powerfully annoying barriers that hold me back, keeping me sick. The goal also is for you to watch me suffer through this so that you too can realize that you will survive it all as well.

Our looks

When our bodies are wracked with pain for years on end, our looks change. They conform to the gruesome agony that we have endured. In time, I am assuming those gruesome scars will heal.

When our bodies endure life-threatening health crisis’, one after another, our bodies go down a path we never could imagine.

  • Lyme and co-infections tried to take me out a couple of times.
  • Then they got into every organ, every system in my body.
  • I have had heart failure several times.
  • I have had all my organs start to shut down, at the same time.
  • My ascending aorta has been 100% blocked.
  • My resting heart rate has been 176.
  • I have not had oxygen or blood flowing to any part of my body for an extended period.
  • I have had a 4-inch diameter mass and collapsed colon.
  • Don’t let me forget the mold toxicity from moving into a black mold apartment for a full year that started this sudden and instant crash.
  • My lungs were taken over with mold and my chest cavity had mold in it, it was so bad I could not breathe and had to sleep in the driveway for fresh air in 32 degrees.
  • Okay, that is enough of that list or I will go into whining mode.

The stress on my body, especially the lack of oxygen and blood flow, actually moved some bones. I see the 4 bones in my hand that moved. I feel the two in my elbows that moved. I have no clue if others have moved as well. My hands look my like my 83-year-old grandmother when she passed away. Let me say this clearly, THEY MOVED, the bones literally moved. It is visible to all. I now refer to them as my war wounds.

Why would I think I could still be cute and bubbly like I used to be? Because that is what I want. That is how people know me. That is how people identify with me. Heck, that is how I know me. Instead, I am trapped in THIS body. Who is that person in the mirror??

Many MANY of you have told me the same story. I have listened to your personal stories of the shame over your looks and what illness has done. Some of that shame is brought on by our insensitive society but some of that shame is self-induced.

When we get this ill, it does not magically get fixed one day and life goes back to “normal.” Instead, it is a scary, messy, agonizing process.

Transformation through illness

The beauty in it is difficult for the outsider to see. The beauty is the transformation process that allows us to have more meaningful lives because of personal growth through the crazy wild process of chronic illness.

For me, it came down to making a simple choice. Do I want to live?

Do I want to live enough to endure the humiliation of looking like a very ill person? Is it worth tossing vanity aside, dealing with the health issues and realizing that someday my body will adjust and find its way to whatever the new “normal” is for me? Can I set aside something as important to me as vanity for the sake of staying alive so I can get this sorted out?

Heck yeah!!!! I want to live more than I have ever wanted to. It no longer matters what others think of my looks. The value I possess is not only skin deep. The humiliation of my looks has taught me the precious lessons of finding more value in myself than I knew I had.

I have been tooting that horn for years now. But the rubber met the road yesterday when I chose to live up to the challenge to expose my “looks.” As I continue to work on accepting that my physical body is still struggling, I will find a calmer and more peaceful existence while living in this temporary body. As I calm those thought patterns that role through my head every day, I will be able to calm the inflammation that is still wreaking havoc on my poor body.

It is a process. One step at a time, in the correct order. If I do not find a more peaceful friendship with my body, I will not calm down more so I can cool off the inflammation. It is going to take me working on the calming and not the weight.

This has to be done in the right order

Chronic illness creates stress, physically and emotionally. The stress knocks our hormone system out-of-whack. When we produce, let’s say, too much cortisol because of all of the stress we can reach our physical limits. Some call it adrenal burnout.

When we reach that adrenal limit, our bodies refuse to cooperate. We have to repair our bodies so that they can recover and get us back to a place where we can move around and eventually exercise again.

Forcing exercise creates more stress, creating more cortisol, creating overworked burned out adrenals. Trust me, I have tried the forcing of exercise only to pay a greater price. It was a very hard lesson to learn.

As I learned to listen to my body, I could feel the subtle throb in my back when my adrenals met their limit. Eventually, it taught me when I need to lay down, take the stress off of my body.

We are taught to “push through” things. Well, I see the value but when it becomes a lifestyle like it did for me, my body no longer allowed me to push through.

Sleep is another huge factor in our looks. Ask anyone with chronic illness how they sleep.  It is not a pretty picture. Sleep gets disrupted by pain. Organs being out-of-balance wakes us at different times of the night. Insomnia robs us of essential restorative sleep. Infections like babesia have specific night time activity keeping us awake and miserable.

During chronic illness, we usually do not sleep well. For a few years, I barely slept at all. I always look better when I can get some peaceful sleep. This holds true for most humans, sick or not.

Letting chronic illness transform

The transformation that this health journey has taken me on has included the consequences of not listening to my body. When I don’t listen, I push through things, all the time. I guess I was one who had to learn the consequences the hard way.

I need simple things like rest, restorative sleep at night, healthy meals, a calm atmosphere. Part of my transformation is about learning to meet some of my basic needs instead of pushing through.

The day will come when I can consistently sleep through the night or exercise again. Just getting through a day without pain would be a treat. It is not now. Accepting that is not easy. Little by little I am being transformed by this chronic illness journey. There is a great victory in that.

To find the victory, all I have to do is look backward. I am sleeping better, not in anywhere the pain I was in, able to move around the house with greater ease. And death is not staring me in the face any longer. I actually believe that the worse is behind me. That is huge progress from where I was. Looks just don’t seem to matter as much in comparison to the progress I have made.

Same goes for all of you. You are also walking through this and trying not to get stuck here. Enjoy the adventure of the transformation.

Tomorrow = Troubleshooting

Tomorrow we will start working on troubleshooting. We are going to use me as the example. Obviously, I am highly inflamed so inflammation is a wonderful troubleshooting example. The main question is WHY. Why am I still so inflamed? Until I find the root cause of the current inflammation, it will not back off magically.

I will share with you how I try to troubleshoot this dilemma. You will be able to see for yourself in the videos if I am succeeding. Inflammation comes off fairly fast when the cause gets eliminated.

Today’s Healthy Adventure

October means pumpkin time and getting ready for Thanksgiving.

Did you do something brave yesterday to get you down the road of YOUR health journey?

Maribeth Baxter, MBNC (Certified Mind-Body Nourishment Coach)

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AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging and social media activities, I may receive monetary compensation for links to products from this post. However, I only recommend products that I personally love and use myself. If it is not good enough for me, it certainly is not good enough for you!!


HEALTH COACH DISCLAIMER: Health/Wellness coaching is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. It is not intended to substitute for the advice, treatment and/or diagnosis of a qualified licensed professional. Trained and certified Health Coaches may not make any medical diagnoses, claims and/or substitute for your personal physician’s care. As your health/wellness coach I do not provide a second opinion or in any way attempt to alter the treatment plans or therapeutic goals/recommendations of your personal physician. It is my role to partner with you to provide ongoing support and accountability as you create an action plan to meet and maintain your health goals.


 

 

 

 

 

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