By the time we encountered something along these lines for the fourth time this past weekend I had already given up into muttering sarcasm land but Mr. Mango was right there as my mental breakdown body guard “No she’s really not. She looks beautiful but she feels like shit.” Times like that are when I have one of my ‘yea he’s a fucking keeper’ moments. I think my 60 year old Aunt was a little taken aback from his bluntness (I hold back my ‘craps’ and ‘stupids’ in front of this lady still and he pulled a ‘shit’) but if there’s anyone on this planet who understands all too well that how I look and how I feel are two separate things, it’s that guy.
It makes sense though to assume that when someone looks poised, cheerful, rosy cheeked and decently dressed that they are feeling alright. At the same time though, if I was to have shown up to a family gathering wearing dirty sweat pants, a house coat, no make up, a messy bun with unwashed hair and curled up on my Omi’s couch with my hot pack just like I was at home would the first assumption have been simply that I was having a bad pain day and to respect that? Hell no, they would have thought I was being lazy or neglectfully disrespectful.
At the very least they would have assumed that I had a nasty cold/flu bug and was being a trooper not cancelling….and then they would tell me politely that I should have cause I’d get everyone sick. Clearly if you’re down and out for 3-4 days with a virus that goes away leaving you perfectly fine after, its legit to be sick and tired and miss family din din….but if you’re chronically ill and being sick, tired and in pain is just part of your life….you just have to live with it since there’s no risk of infecting the others, you damn well get your ass into the city and make it or you get the biggest guilt trip of your life.
Unlike having a cold for a few days, managing a long running flare up of lupus symptoms, or IBS or a migraine isn’t something I can just get through in my comfy clothes and messy bun and then be done with it. Yes there are days when it’s to hell with it and I end up at the grocery store in my fuzzy zebra pants, slippers and dark cootie over-sized hoodie. Looking like I’m not half dead all the time isn’t my utmost priority when I’m at my worst and the purpose definitely isn’t for anyone else pleasure. It does however serve a purpose and a lot of the time I consider it worth the effort to ‘look like I’m feeling better.’
Putting on ‘real’ clothes is fucking nice once in a while. Yes it’s a hassle to button up pants with failing fingers, underwires cut into sore muscles and sit on weird nerve trigger spots, waist lines upset internal organs and no pretty sweaters are warm enough. It’s still visually and mentally a wonderful break from the world of house coats and yoga pants. It also means I don’t stand out like a slob if we’re out in public, I see that as a win as well.
Putting on make up prevents a million “you look tired”s and “are you OK”s, and I fucking love cosmetics, so sue me. There was a time in my life I would tell you that I wasn’t comfortable leaving the house without my face done. That time is gone, a mix between ‘who the hell cares’ and a boost of self confidence with age, I’m sure, but no matter what I still prefer to leave the house not half dead looking when we’re headed out for something other than a walk or groceries and errands. I may not spend an extraordinary amount of time doing creative works of art every date night or party any more, but it’s pretty amazing what a little foundation, blush and mascara can do to hide the corpse look. People are out there able to fake cheek bones (not in my skill set)… I sure as shit can fake a healthy complexion.
Dressing nice, wearing some make up, putting my hair up neatly or heck, even wearing it down and walking out the door with a little confidence that I don’t look like I should be laid in a hospital bed IS something I need from time to time. It has nothing to do with fooling people into thinking I’m healthy (though not having to talk about my illness the whole time around people is nice too) and it doesn’t mean I’m feeling great, better or awesome. It just means I’ve used my judgement that I’m feeling up for getting out and not spending the day resting up in bed or on the couch (even if it means that may be what I spend the next day doing to recuperate).
Having an invisible illness means that YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO TELL BY LOOKING AT ME how I am doing or how I am feeling. That’s reality. If I want to feel like I look awake, perky, healthy or pretty I deserve that, just like anyone else.