We live in the self-care revolution! Everywhere we turn there are posts on social media about self-care and self-love, and how to practice it in our everyday lives, and I for one believe that self-care is a crucial part of healing and coping with chronic illness.
We live in a world where self-care is often portrayed as things we do that make us feel good in the moment. And don't get me wrong here, I have definitely been found guilty of eating a piece of chocolate cake in the name of self-care! (As long as it's organic and sugar-free right?!) But I just wanted to point out here that self-care doesn't always look like things that feel good or are convenient in the moment. It's not always convenient to take all of my supplements or drink green juice every morning, but it's what my body needs to function and to stay well, and those simple things are sometimes the best ways that we can take care of ourselves. Self-care isn't always nice and pretty looking. Sometimes it's grueling when you're fighting a chronic illness, but we resolve to keep doing it because we're fighting for our quality of life.
I also think it's really important to find balance in caring for ourselves and caring for others. It's important that in our efforts to practice self-care we don't become self-ish. And in our efforts to care for others we don't forget to care for ourselves. Balance is one of the most important things we can find in our journey to health wellness and as we strive for that we can find joy in our journey, no matter our circumstance.
Comment below what self-care looks like for you!
We live in a revolutionary period of time where a lot of judgment is placed on how we look.
Looking "picture perfect" on Facebook and Instagram.
Looking like we don't have any struggles when we really do.
Looking the way that everyone expects us to look, even if it makes us feel unnecessary pressure and undue stress.
I have always been a strong believer of waking up in the morning and looking the way that I WANT to feel. Not the way that I actually feel. I've done this from my teenage years, into my adult years, and it has helped me to feel confident in my own skin until I realized that when you have a chronic illness, most people don't believe you unless you "look" sick. What does "sick" look like anyway?
The bottom line is this: Just because somebody looks like they have it all together, doesn't mean that they aren't having deep trials and tribulations of their own. I have spent EXORBITANT amounts of time looking "sick" because I didn't have a choice. But on the days that I do have a choice, I choose to look as strong and healthy as I can because it makes me feel better when I take care of myself. So... it's important that we always strive to be KIND. You never know the invisible battles that someone is fighting every day, and when it comes down to it, how we look on the outside is never as important as how we look on the inside.
God knows our hearts, and we can seek to know the hearts of others as well if we live our lives in LOVE instead of in LOOKS.
Comment below if anyone has ever said "well you don't LOOK sick!" to you and how it made you feel!
Obviously I can't just go around telling people they smell, so I felt this chronic truth was necessary! The main message I'd like to get across here is that chemical sensitivity is SO REAL and it affects a large amount of the chronic illness community!
Let's get down to the nitty-gritty facts: It's not your sweat that smells. It's the TOXINS in your sweat that causes body odor and therefore makes everybody feel the need to mask the smell with perfumes and colognes that are jam-packed with chemicals that are harmful to our hormones, our immune system, and our nervous system. (Plus, perfumes are packed with toxins. Which means in the long run, you'll smell worse.) It's not that I just think that everyone smells bad, it's that these chemicals often bring on a major headache or nausea that can be frustrating to deal with every time I go out in public.
So here's some easy tips and tricks for reducing our use of strong chemical perfumes!
1. DETOX! Detoxing can easily be accomplished through going for a morning jog and breaking a sweat, drinking celery juice, or eating a leafy green salad every day! The more you detox, the less your sweat will produce body odor, and chemical perfumes won't be necessary.
2. The next time you go to a place with a large crowd of people, don't apply any perfume or cologne! You never know who in that crowd of people has an invisible illness and will have to go home early because the air makes them sick.
3. Go natural! Essential oils make great perfumes, and I've found that scents like lavender, geranium, or grapefruit work great for women. And white fir and Hawaiian sandalwood are great scents for men!
We can work together as a society to make our air cleaner and healthier for everyone around us!
Comment below if you have chemical sensitivity and how it affects you!
Almost everyone I know who has a chronic illness has at one point or another been accused of looking for attention. I really think the only way that you can avoid being accused of attention seeking through your illness is if you never talk about your illness, EVER. For me, the problem is that it's not possible to never mention Lyme disease because it takes up such a large portion of my life! I talk about chronic illness the same way any other young person would talk about work or school, because it's such a part of me, and it's a full-time job to manage.
I can't help but laugh every time someone says that "I must love attention" because first of all, who in their right mind would love attention so much that they would make up a disease to get it? Second of all, most people don't even believe that Lyme disease is a real disease. So if I was really looking for attention, wouldn't I choose a method that is a little more effective? (P.S. I really don't like being the center of attention anyway.)
Here's the bottom line: I have been to places that a lot of people can't comprehend. I've experienced such darkness, pain, and isolation, that it grieves me to think that anybody else would have to suffer through this alone. For that reason, I choose to share my story and talk about what I've been through because greater love and understanding for this community of people could possibly change the world for the better. I've developed such a passion for raising awareness because NOBODY deserves to be alone in this fight. My illness has nothing to do with my desire (or lack of desire) for attention. It has everything to do with reaching for the hands that hand down in despair, and hoping that I can play a part in lifting them out of the darkness.
Comment below if you have ever been accused of attention seeking because of your illness, and why you choose to share your story!
I felt like this chronic illness truth was extremely necessary after the past month for me!
When you're in the fire at the moment, it's incredibly difficult to remember this and it's something that I think we all need to be reminded of. I often feel broken, exhausted, and worn down as I fight every day for my quality of life. It's easy to assume and wonder if I'm just weak and maybe I don't have what it takes to handle this trial. Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses DESTROY lives and it's our job to make sure that we don't let it, and that we continue to fight the good fight. That fight is a CONSTANT battle that can be overwhelming and intense.
I believe that it's so important to remember that as chronic illness warriors, we are living on levels of pain that the average person doesn't, and that is a massive victory for each of us. We are strong, beautiful, and capable people. Just because we have different challenges and disabilities, does not mean that we are useless or of no worth. Chronically ill people are some of the strongest and most beautiful people I know because we are laced with depth and drenched in compassion. We love deeply, and it takes everything we have to maintain faith and hope and yet we manage.
Each and every chronic illness warrior is a survivor and that is something to be astounded and amazed at. I for one am thankful for the strength that is demonstrated by those who are constantly in the fire but choose not to give up. No matter what anyone says, and no matter how anybody treats you differently because of your illness, always remember that YOU ARE A WARRIOR.
Comment below if you needed to be remined of this and if you've ever felt weak and useless because of your illness! Remember that you are not and you can do it!
The seemingly never-ending journey that every chronically ill person has to wade through. 🙅♀️🤷♀️
I've been fighting the Lyme battle for quite some time, which means that at some point I've tried almost every diet under the sun. Gluten-free, fat-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, keto, you name it... I've done it. It can take quite a while to find out what works best for you in the realm of food, and there are so many different nutrition theories that are constantly telling you what you should or shouldn't eat. I've learned that diet is different for everyone and that one man's food is another man's poison. For me, I eat organic, and I've completely cut refined sugars from my diet. And that's how I eat so I'm not sick on a constant basis!
I've discovered a weird social quirk through all this "dieting" business though, and that is that a lot of people often feel uncomfortable when you choose not to eat at any social event that involves food. I've often had people make comments about my weight or about how I can't just think I'm better than everyone else because I eat differently. Honestly, I do not think down on people for what they eat, and when I talk about my diet it's because I have a passion for health and wellness, and I'm seriously just trying to stay alive in my Lyme battle! 💪💚❤️😁
Comment down below what you eat to manage your illness, or if you have any funny stories about people jumping to conclusions about your diet! The more we share, the more we can care and understand where others are coming from!
The process of emotional detox that weighs in your stomach and makes your heart physically ache.
So often people who suffer from chronic illness are misperceived to be "negative" or "attention seeking" because of the grief that comes with the trial. The truth is that I generally consider myself to be a happy person, but I've lost SO MUCH in my time of illness. I've lost people I love, and I've lost some of my dreams and aspirations and my ability to achieve them. It's only NATURAL and HEALTHY to grieve. Grief just comes with the territory, and taking time to fully experience and feel those emotions is part of processing and coping with the pain.
The key that we all keep seeking for peace. The key is that we don't give up. In order to let go of the pain, we first have to allow ourselves to feel it. It's okay to take time to grieve and it's okay to not be okay. As we experience this form of pain we can come to a place where we can remember that there is hope and happiness ahead.
When you have a friend who is chronically ill, it's important to hold space for their grief with them. It's important that we don't constantly criticize because it seems like the negativity is frequent. It's important that we love those who are suffering so much that the love can heal the grief and we can be the happy and joyful people that we were meant to be.
Comment below if you experience grief with your illness and some of the things that help you through it!
Welcome to the beginning of Chronically Beautiful's "Chronic Illness Truth" series where we share bluntly honest truths with you about the reality of living with chronic illness! This series will serve two main purposes:
#1: The first purpose is to educate the healthy and help cultivate love, compassion, and understanding to the chronic illness community. The best way to help and serve others is by coming to an awareness of the suffering all around us, and the more knowledge we have, the greater our opportunities we'll have to help.
#2: The second purpose is to build the chronic illness community through sharing things that everyone can relate to so that nobody feels alone or forgotten in their chronic illness journey. Most of these truths that I post will be specific to Lyme disease, but I'm sure that almost anyone with any chronic illness can relate, and that will help us to make connections and form a greater community of support and understanding!
Chronic Truth #1:
It is very common for people to ask me what my illness is when they find out I have a chronic illness, and it's also very common for others to feel uncomfortable about asking. I just want to clarify that it's completely okay for anyone to ask about my illness. It doesn't make me uncomfortable, and I often enjoy the conversation that comes from that question.
One of the funniest things to me is when people mispronounce Lyme disease. Seriously, it's probably one of the easier illnesses to pronounce and yet so many people throw an S at the end of it! Go figure!
Believe it or not, I've actually had people ask me if my illness comes from limes, and it actually comes from a tick or any other biting insect that can carry the bacteria. It can also be passed down to your children, as is my case. My mom has had Lyme from a tick bite since she was nine, and therefore I was born with it.
It never ceases to amaze me how strong anyone with a chronic illness is. I've spent many a morning wondering how on earth I'm still alive after the night before, and yet I'm still here and I'm still kicking! I've seen this phenomenon among many chronically ill people. We truly are WARRIORS who fight long and hard for our lives, and as we do so we often feel worn down and exhausted from fighting the fight. Nevertheless, we value life, and we continue to fight in hopes that we can be healed and then help others on their healing journey.
Comment below if you've ever had someone mispronounce your illness, or if you're completely amazed at how you're still alive! And stay tuned for more of our Chronic Illness Truth series!
Lately, I've found myself pondering the pure and seemingly sparkling crystals that so frequently fall from the sky these days. Snow is a funny thing in that there is no one snowflake that is exactly the same. Each has its own Divine design, and the path that each snowflake takes to reach the ground is unique to that particular snowflake and looks different depending on its time and place.
Similarly, we as human beings walk different roads, come to different bumps and turns, and come equipped with our own unique design that God blesses us with when we came down here. I often wonder why my path in life often seems so different than other's may be... but then again I'm sure that all of us experience that daunting perception at some point in our lives.
With that in mind, I've watched many people suffer from chronic illness and the wide range of differences that come from being sick. This phenomenon is something that would do everyone some good if they took the time to look into the hearts and minds of these people who suffer on many different levels. The fact of the matter is that there are no two chronically ill lifestyles that look the same. We're all simply moving along on our own individual paths, trying to survive the best that we can.
The words "chronically ill" are usually accompanied by a substantial amount of expectations and perceptions from others. There's a certain "type" and "look" that apparently we're all supposed to have, but the reality is that some of us just don't have that "look" but that doesn't make our lives any easier, and it doesn't take our painful circumstances away.
The majority of people view illness by the book. When you're sick you lay in bed with body aches and head congestion while consuming large amounts of ibuprofen or Tylenol to relieve that pain and wait for it to pass. It may take a few days of discomfort, but it passes, and you move on with daily life. Others simply push past the pain and continue their daily lives and are lucky enough when their symptom cease, despite the need to persist in their prior commitments and responsibilities.
Now when you're REALLY sick it's a little different. When you're in unbearable amounts of pain, you rush to the doctor, load up on pain medications, and wait for hard-working health experts to diagnose and treat you. And after countless tests and hours, these loving and caring doctors treat you with medication or surgery, and you go home ready to recover and your pain eventually passes so you can live a normal life.
This is what illness looks like, right? This is how we manage our health and wellness so we can feel vitalized and renewed, right?
A flu virus is one thing, but being chronically ill is an entirely different paradigm that requires a lifestyle change and a realization that maybe being sick isn't what you thought it was in the first place.
Many chronic illness patients do spend a lot of time in the hospital, and many chronic illness patients do treat their symptoms with pain medications, which is definitely not something to downplay and consists of an incredibly difficult road. But my story and many other's stories are different, and that doesn't make any of our pain less valid or less painful.
What most chronic illness patients don't tell you is just HOW MANY doctors they had to go through in order to find one that would finally help. What a lot of us don't talk about is the PTSD that comes from how badly we're treated by people, and the desperation we all have to find answers. And what a lot of us don't tell you is that hope may not be found in a doctors office or in a medication, and that doesn't mean that we're crazy or that all of our symptoms are psychosomatic. It simply means that our path is different, and our answers are different.
I'm never in the hospital.
I've don't take any medications.
I treat my symptoms with natural food, remedies, and protocols.
And I never managed to find one doctor in my area that helped me very much.
And the things I'm doing now are HELPING ME TO HEAL!
My symptoms can range from tremors to being light-headed, to passing out after taking a shower, to skin lesions, panic attacks, extreme fatigue, and severe abdominal pain. But sometimes the pattern is that one day I can feel healthy and strong, and the next day I can hardly function at all.
Sometimes I feel like I'm losing my mind.
Other times I feel free and hopeful.
I pray every day for the feeling of the floor falling out from underneath me to cease, and for the grief that comes from illness to pass. Some days it does. Some days it doesn't. And that's just a normality for me and many others.
Chronic illness is a wide spectrum of struggle and perseverance, and there is no one size fits all. For some of us, it's doctors and hospitals on the daily. For others, it's constant protocols that never seem to end. And for others, it's diet change and learning how to be healthy half of the time and sick the other half of the time. For others, it's all of those things combined and it's often overwhelming and exhausting trying to keep all of the daily health routines straight.
Whatever it is, and no matter your place in your journey... your pain is valid and I urge you to heed not the expectations and perceptions of others who have never walked in your shoes. It would do the world some good if all of us could increase our love and compassion towards those who suffer in any way. The more we're aware of the suffering around us, the more empowered we can be to pull others out of the swamps and dark places that we all can find ourselves in.
Despite the difficulties and the struggles, there are some things that all chronically ill people have in common:
All of us are warriors. All of us have battled sore affliction. And all of us are beautiful, resilient people who are seeking to live life to the fullest and emerge out of the norm of society to bring light and healing to a world that craves those things. As we're sculpted into the warriors that we are, we're transformed on our path and seek to touch the world with our newfound being, just like the snowflake that travels to the ground to ultimately bring beauty into our lives and nourishment to our earth.
I sense extreme pressure that builds up in my chest and makes my nerves tingle from my heart all the way to the tips of my fingers. Pressure that makes me fear the future and gives me a severe distaste for my present. Pressure that brings tears to my eyes when I least expect it and leaves me looking at myself in the mirror wondering who that girl is.
I'm not completely sure where this pressure comes from, but I have a slight notion that it originates from past traumas. Memories of insufferable pain from Lyme disease for long nights. Recollection of people that I love making promises they never intended to keep. Thoughts of being hurt by the harsh words and actions of people who don't even seem to understand how much effect you can have on another's human heart. This odd awareness for past experiences flashes through my mind when I least expect it, and leaves me feeling like something inside me is crawling up my spine. I can't stand it, and for once I'd like to just be me and not have to worry about being crushed again by the insensitive human temperament that so many seem to possess.
I want my heart back, and I want to feel comfortable in my own skin again around other people.
When I'm occupying my own space, I get to experience a sense of acceptance of the girl that screams to be free. In my sanctuary, I have the privilege of being that girl that doesn't eat sugar and experiences a thrill from eating healthy food. I'm that girl that can sense things that others can't and is allowed to be highly sensitive to smells, tastes, sights, and the little beauties that are all around us, and it's not crazy, it's insightful. I'm that girl that sings her favorite song as she's walking down the street and wears maxi-dresses for no special occasion, just because she can. I'm the girl that jumps up and down when she gets excited over seemingly insignificant things, and I'm that girl that obsesses over to-do lists and loves schedules, but also loves feeling free as a bird! I'm the girl that never does anything half baked, and it doesn't matter if everyone else executes everything in their lives with half the effort, because she can be happy living in her full and vitalized life. I'm the girl that lavishes my entire heart in her endeavors and thoughtfully verifies that the beautiful living creatures that she comes in contact with can experience the intense Divine love that she can bestow.
I'm also that girl who can be smiling one minute with gratitude that she's not in pain and crying the next because coping with trauma from illness is SO HARD. I'm that girl that can laugh at the humor in life one second and be on her knees in prayer the next praying for release from severe anxiety and depression. I'm that girl that can be on my feet and doing yoga one day, and in bed with a heating pad hardly being able to move the next, because Lyme disease sometimes breaks you. But when I experience my whole being in a safe place for myself, I don't feel completely insane for the various and rapidly changing ups and downs. When I'm safe, I can accept that I'm just a girl with a chronic illness who is trying to learn how to heal to the best that she can and sometimes she's dissatisfactory and defective at it, other times she thrives, and that's okay!
In the presence of large groups of people, everything changes and I often find my indestructible and merciless brick walls building up around my heart as a protection against the naysayers. I often can feel the lock and key as I stuff my personality in a corner for the meantime. I often feel trapped to be like everyone else, and if a little part of me comes out it could be dangerous in the hands of people who disagree or misinterpret. I often find myself performing the act of the perfectly composed woman who wasn't just in excruciating pain the night before and can be wherever it is I need to be because I'm expected to be there, even if my body cries otherwise. Concealing my thoughts, holding my tongue, not venturing too close... Because if you unexpectedly get too close to someone who bites... you're left suffering on levels that they don't understand simply because they haven't experienced their severe adversity yet. Protecting myself is chaining, exhausting, and lonely. And for that reason, I choose my safe space as often as I can.
Everything changes in the presence of people who misunderstand and misinterpret. And the unfortunate truth is that so many people throw wrath and fear at others simply because they lack the ability to reach their hearts into someone else's. So many lack the ability to be raw and honest with themselves and others about their lives. We all struggle, and if the human struggle was a shared effort where we all sustained each other, there wouldn't be so many who feel the need to live a double life.
I often wonder what it would look like if it were possible to compile all the tears from human suffering into a box, how big that box would have to be. And if people had a chance to witness how large that box was, if it would soften their hearts in a way that made them slightly more sensitive to the people around them and slightly more aware of the hearts that are crying out for help. If we knew how deep other people's waters were, would we take extra time to stop and help them so that they don't drown? And if everyone stopped and helped the people in deep water, maybe all the water as a whole would be lessened to the point where we could all patiently wade through less troubled waters together. Maybe if we all decided to be a little more real, and a little more honest... then maybe those who suffer wouldn't feel the need to live a double life because then they would know that they weren't along and that there were strong hands waiting to lift their aching hearts.
God doesn't expect us to live out our lives in cold hard shells so as to not let other's notice our pains. God desires us to love and lift the hands that hang down. God wishes us to let love penetrate so deep that we can all feel His Divine love through each other. I hate the pressure I feel to live a double life as a chronic illness warrior (and I know I'm not the only one), and I've found that I'm more effective at bringing light into other's lives when I'm simply striving to be my best self. Maybe all of us could come to that realization in a way that could change the world.