As I started to write this post, I was sitting at the station waiting to board a Cross Country train back to the shire to be cared for by my parents. I remember thinking that its times like this I am grateful for my long locks (I will never cut you again) as I was pretty much hiding my face behind it like a scared kid behind a curtain or that girl from The Ring.
My confidence was – and if I am truthful, still is – at an all-time low. I wouldn’t say it’s less than zero anymore, but its close.
Why? Because I have a lip infection that not only makes me look like I have set fire to my lips, but it’s so painful and I haven’t been able to eat much over the last week. I am losing weight I don’t want to lose at an alarmingly rapid speed. I am dreaming about the hundreds of cheese sandwiches I am going to shovel in my face after this thing is over.
It’s been six days with not much reprieve, although today I did wake up with some reduced swelling and the ability to form words so that’s an improvement,
Over the last week I have had a fever of 40 and, although still quite high it seems to be coming down slowly, and I have only drunk gallons of water (occasionally mixed with whiskey because a girl’s got to sleep). I have been to A&E, who after four very thorough hours and a series of blood tests, still couldn’t identify what was wrong with me. I haven’t been able to go to work due to the fever, lack of energy and sheer pain which means I am now broke. I fainted in the bathroom. Naked. And now have a pretty whopping bruise on my arse.
So why am I disclosing all this information? Well, I’m a bit of a chatterbox and the whole not being able to speak much things has left me mute, all except for writing. Today is the first day I have felt like putting pen to paper.
I am not writing this post for sympathy – although you know me, I am a chronic over sharer – rather, throughout this whole horrible time, I have noticed an overriding feeling that has plagued me more than the fear of an unknown diagnosis, possible future trips to a dermatologist, no money for a month, and general illness, and its bothering me.
(It’s also keeping my mind active through the fog of boxset binging and all the many naps)
There, I said it. And I am furious at myself for admitting it.
I feel like everyone is looking at me and thinking, “oh my god!” although I haven’t really left the house, just moved from one to another. The train incident was feverish and I just remember feeling hot, paranoid and like I might pass out. At least this time I had clothes on.
I mean, I know I’ve looked better, that’s certainly true. But I actually feel heart-breakingly horrid. Like if I look in a mirror, I might just cry and cry and never stop. My Dad said ‘don’t worry, sweetie. You’ve still got such a very pretty face. It doesn’t matter’ and I burst into floods of tears. Of course it matters, I said it my head because, you know, words are painful.
Ugly. Diseased. Leper. Unattractive. Hideous. Sick.
These are just a few of the words I have used to describe myself to friends and family during the last week of self-imposed hibernation much to their dismay. I’d like to say it’s the fever talking, but I don’t think it is. It something rooted inside me, inside all of us. Particularly in women.
But the thing is, a friend can be as supportive as they wish, and your Dad can tell you that you’re beautiful, your mum can reassure you that it will all pass and you will getter better, and that in the grand scheme of things this is just a bit of a shitter that will soon leave you alone, that people probably won’t notice much or even care, but it’s hard to see the wood for the fucking bastard painful blistery trees.
In my, feverish, mind that’s it.
I am so mad at myself for this behaviour. I should be worried about the fact that I’ve lost almost half a stone in just over a week, that “Emma Who Eats” is now Emma Who Has To Drink Everything Through A Straw, or the fact that my entire mush is covered in an unknown blistery virus, or the fainting in the bathroom thing. But I’m not. Well, I am but my appearance is taking up a huge chunk of my thought process.
I am a smart, capable, relatively funny woman. I believe in kindness and humour, and – for me – real love is certainly way more than skin deep. I mean, I want a partner who can accept the bad stuff, the illnesses, someone who can drive me to A&E (rather than a cabby I don’t know who kept asking me questions I physically couldn’t answer) and stay with me so I don’t have to wait for four scary hours all alone unable to drink water because there are no straws.
Because let’s face it, some weird lip infection is probably the most minor of ailments in the grand scheme of life. The universe has a funny sense of humour and you’ve just got to go through the motions.
So why oh why am I being such an idiot about this situation?
It’s because of the ‘beauty myth.’
The fucking beauty myth.
An image perpetuated by a society that wants us to buy things.
Acne? Buy this shit tonne of beauty products endorsed by a celebrity because your self-esteem must rest on baby-soft skin.
Want kissable lips (mine, according to advertising, are far from such, although right now it hurts so badly that if someone tried to kiss me I would probably a) commit an act of violence or b) cry).
Can you pinch an inch? Best to purchase this ridiculously expensive gym membership or chow down on these diet pills. Best not to be fat!
It’s depressing really, how we think it’s perfectly reasonable to do this to each other. That companies and organisations aren’t more responsible with what they say and how they market their products.
Then there’s the whole social media thing. Now, I have a complicated love-hate relationship with social media.
Obviously, as a blogger and writer, it gives me a platform to share my rants but it also makes me susceptible to the feelings and opinions of others. Anonymity is a powerful tool and breeds a culture where its fine to say anything to anyone about anything because there are, rarely, consequences. I am lucky that I have never really been hit by negativity but I know lots of wonderful female bloggers who have been harassed and abused relentlessly for simply being honest.
If I am completely truthful, witnessing this behaviour has prevented me from being as candid as I would like in my writing. There is so much more that I want to talk about but I don’t quite have the lady-balls. Not yet. I’m working on it.
Instagram and Facebook are the biggest perpetrators of the “beauty myth.” Heavily filtered and carefully chosen images prompt a sort of envy in our everyday lives, something that was never there before. Something that ensures we are never happy with our lot, even if our lot is pretty great.
Pictures of scantily clad, toned and bronzed women on beaches. Rock hard abs. Flawless make-up. Flawless faces. Engagements. Babies. Great jobs. Exotic beaches.
This is the ‘truth’ according to social media.
Obviously we should take it all with a pinch of salt. People aren’t going to post their spots, or cold sores, or eczema or crying faces after a bad fucking day at work, or their weird lip infection (I did, but then like I said I am a chronic over sharer). It’s a place of fantasy, not real, life.
But then social media can be a very powerful tool. A tool we can harness and take back should we so wish.
A few months ago, a very dear friend of mine decided to pop a picture on Facebook while her face was covered in an eczema rash. I don’t think she would mind me mentioning her as the premise was that she wanted to show people the truth beneath the make-up and let other women know that they are not alone.
It was brave and wonderful. Just like she is. I have witnessed this beautiful girl go through the ups and down of suffering with this skin condition. Unable to use perfumes in anything (we have a ‘rider’ when we visit each other, hers includes sheets washed in unperfumed detergent and ice lollies) her life is a constant battle with her skin. She is a wonderfully funny, strong, ferociously smart woman and to see her upset over this had been incredibly difficult. No-one can ever sympathise with her plight which included a major health scare due to her body wildly overreacting to something she’d encountered. Luckily, in the past few months, she has come across treatment which has left her skin largely eczema free. Throughout the whole ordeal she has handled herself with dignity and grace but there have been times when this has knocked her off her feet.
So what do I propose we do about this situation?
Honestly, I am unsure. The beauty myth is so firmly engrained within us all, that I’m not sure it’s going to be broken down that easily. I guess what I am trying to say – and achieve, because I know I haven’t been practicing what I preach recently – is that no matter what happens, most skin issues or ailments are temporary, or hit us once or twice a year. In the grand scheme of things, and life, this is a relatively short amount of time.
While pain and fear can’t be eradicated, the idea that you are ugly because of an illness that you are currently suffering with, is something we all need to get over. Myself included.
I’m going to keep myself ensconced at Parental Towers for some TLC. Dr Mum is doing a great job of helping me to eat and build up my strength. Hopefully this week will see vast improvements with being able to speak (or else I am going to need some sort of computer programme – any suggestions?) and maybe someone might be able to tell me about my Blystery (never too sick for a good portmanteau).
See you all on the other side of this thing!