Help! I’ve Lost My … Vanity?

I’ve always been vain. It was a trait passed down by my grandmother and further reinforced by both my step-mom and my mom. We are women; we are supposed to look good. At least, that’s certainly the message I received growing up.

As a teenager, I poured over magazines like Glamour and Cosmo. In addition to learning “5 Better Ways to Wear that Top” and the “10 Moves for Flatter Abs You Should Be Doing Now”, I also gained an unhealthy body image and an ongoing need to be thinner. In my early 20s, I read The Beauty Myth and for a few short years did my best to redefine what beauty meant to me. At 30, while I still didn’t read fashion magazines, I found that despite Naomi Wolf’s best intentions I wasn’t immune to the socialized part of us women that examines each deepening line in the mirror and pinches the extra skin on our hips each time we sit down. In short, while I no longer fell victim to the mind-numbingly dumb antics of the fashion industry, I was still vain. And the internet did little to help.

Pinterest, in particular, ramped-up my female fears that I wasn’t toned enough or small enough or big in all the right places. In those first few years on the platform, I pinned moving gifs of the newest Hollywood butt workout and tutorial after tutorial on shaping and contouring (which, to be fair, I never planned to actually try let alone master). But now, just a few years later, those things no longer hold my interest. Instead, I find myself scrolling past the pin after pin showcasing the perfect eyebrow, the trendiest smokey eye, and the women doing repetitive fitness moves in all their gif glory. Somehow those things are no longer important. So what changed?

I got sick.

Really sick.

Life alteringly sick.

And what I found was that when you are that sick ⁠— when you can’t eat without dropping your spoon or fork in frustration, when you can’t put on your bathrobe without wincing as you raise your arm, when you can’t walk without assistance or limping ⁠— a tighter stomach no longer matters.

Don’t get me wrong; I still look at those lines and sigh. I still don’t want to be too big or too thin. I still pinch that roll when I sit down. But the pins I’m focused on now have more to do with how to write when you can’t type and how to cook dinner when you can’t hold a spatula or stand for more than a few minutes than they do with fitness and beauty trends. And when I see other women my age pinning posts on winged eyeliner, celebrity hairstyles, and achieving a rounder butt I can’t help but think: How quaint.

For I remember when the size of any one body part was one of my most pressing bodily concerns. And while in some ways I appreciate this newfound freedom from socialized vanity, I sometimes long for the days when I was saving articles on new thigh workouts rather then searching for a rollator that doesn’t scream 90-year-old grandma.

But, then again, maybe I’m not too different from the other women my age because that not-looking-too-old part definitely still matters, even if it is geared more toward my assistive devices than my forehead. After all, I may have multiple autoimmune diseases but I’m still my granny’s granddaughter. Vanity, I guess, exists in all forms.

#MHAM2018 Article Round-Up

I didn’t get to participate in #MHAM this year (more on why later), but I’m happy to report that many of my fellow migraine advocates were out in force, writing fierce articles and attending various events throughout the U.S. and beyond in order to spread awareness of this chronic, incurable disease. Here are a few of my favorite picks from the month for anyone who might have missed the flurry of activity:

The Unpredictability of Life With Chronic Migraine, from The Mighty

CGRP Approved, Now What? from Migraine.com (Not sure what CGRPs are? Read this.)

Why Does Migraine Matter? from The Migraine Mantras

When Coworkers See You Work on a Sick Day, from Migraine.com

How to Show Kindness to People in Pain, from Migraine Again with Shaunti Feldhahn

Diagnosis Isn’t a One-Time Thing, from Migraine.com

Migraine Community Mobilizes in Response to Recent ‘Migraine Pose’ Article, by AMF

Note: If you missed the backlash against Elle Magazine’s “Migraine Pose” article, do yourself a favor and check out Instagram and Twitter with the #migrainepose and #truemigrainepose hashtags. The community’s response was inspiring. (And it is the one piece of advocacy I was actually able to attempt last month.)

Here’s wishing you all a healthy, happy, and peaceful summer. 🙂

New Additions to the Blog Roll

As some of my longer-term readers may have noted, I took a lengthy break from blogging a couple of years ago. Dealing with chronic pain can be exceptionally disheartening, especially when you’re talking about it, writing about it, and keeping a journal cataloging it on a regular basis. So, I quit.

I stopped talking, stopped blogging, and definitely stopped keeping my migraine journal. Trouble was my can’t-I-just-pretend-this-excruciating-daily-pain-doesn’t-exist mindset was a dressed up version of denial. Once I came to terms with this fact, I started blogging again.

Naturally, many of my fellow migraineurs also stopped blogging during that time. And, since then, new (and wonderful) blogs have popped up. So, today’s post is a shout-out to the new (and old) blogs I managed to find this week after joining the ChronicBabe Forum.

Newly added to the blogroll:

Redefining “Good:” Learning to live with chronic pain and illness gracefully

Somebody Heal Me

Graceful Agony: Living your best life in spite of having chronic pain

Migrainista

Overflowing Brain

That’s all for now, but I’m always on the lookout for insightful, informative, and inspirational blogs. Does anyone have a favorite blog that isn’t listed? Please share!