You may know that I’ve recently had quite a nasty illness that still has its claws in me. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I’ve had it for over two years, following a bout of Glandular Fever. And one other thing? Chronic Fatigue sucks.
However, I’m on the road to recovery (yay!) and I’ve noticed something interesting.
As I feel better, I want to look better.
I’m not sure how one thing is tethered to the other, but now that I feel a little better, I want to wear nicer clothes, and put on jewellery and makeup. Prior to my experiences with Chronic Fatigue, I very rarely strode out of the house without a bunch of makeup, clothes that made me feel good, and lots of jingle-jangle things. With Chronic Fatigue? Go to the shops without a scrap of makeup? Do it. Nobody knows you there. Go somewhere with people you know? They don’t care if you wear makeup or not.
But, in my blog about red lipstick here, (PS I LOVE red lipstick!!) I made the point that I don’t wear makeup or get dressed nicely for anyone but myself. And while it’s nice to be complimented on how you look, if you don’t feel it… well, I’m sure you’ve felt fat or ugly or styleless before. No number of compliments can make you feel like you look good.
So, suffering from Chronic Fatigue, I no longer cared about my own self-image. And I can explain that too, using someone else’s words. A 27-year-old woman called Stefanie told the Pittsburgh City Paper in this article: “If you don’t have your health the only dream you have is for your health.” So all I wanted was health. Nothing more, nothing less.
I have always tried to put clothes on instead of staying around in my pyjamas – it doesn’t always work, but I’ve tried. But now I feel a little better, I select and plan what I’m going to wear and I care about what I’m wearing instead of throwing on whatever I pulled out of the cupboard. It takes no more time. However, it does take (slightly) more brain power to select an outfit instead of just reverting to an old, comfy fave.
And what about jewellery? I always have two bracelets on, and I always have earrings in my ears. But now I want to dig out all my necklaces and pendants and try them all on again and wear them. And bracelets. And earrings. All the pretty, jingly shinies that I’ve been ignoring for the past two years.
I think it’s about utilisation of energy. The brain uses around 20 percent of a person’s energy intake. That’s just to keep it running. When a person sets themselves to a particularly tough mental task, the brain laps up more energy. Admittedly, these amounts of energy are tiny. However, in someone with Chronic Fatigue, energy (a) starts off lower than usual and (b) is more difficult to top up. Using excess energy to put to unnecessary tasks is really stupid. I think in these cases, the brain tries to shut off the interest/capacity/initial thought of doing those things. So not only do I not care what I’m wearing, I also don’t really remember that I don’t care.
I’ve no idea if there is any scientific merit to this theory. It’s my experience. I do know that in suffering Chronic Fatigue, my ability to concentrate on tasks is lower. And the concentration ends when I need to rest. Not that I want to go off and do something else. Its concentrate then crash. Concentrate then crash. Thinking about putting on anything more than a t-shirt and trackie pants? No, that would be a waste of energy you need for the concentration.
Now that I’m improving, my brain is letting me use a little bit of energy to choose something to wear. And jewellery! And putting on makeup!
And I love it. I feel like a girl again!
Losing your identity when you have a chronic illness is really easy. You are existing. You are surviving. You aren’t trying to be someone. You’re just trying to be. But slowly, slowly I’m turning back into me.