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Appearances – the First Layer of Defense

Appearances - The First Layer of Defense | A Chronic Voice

I Care a Lot about the Way I Look

Whilst I don’t spend hours applying makeup in front of the mirror, I do ensure that I look somewhat presentable before stepping out of the house. This can be a struggle on bad days, but still I try. Why?

I have spent a lot of time in hospitals, sharing my personal space with the old, sickly, dying and dead. Once, I saw an old woman scratching her armpits while being nasty to everyone around her. It struck me that I was becoming her mirror image; I didn’t recognise myself anymore, even detested it.

How had I arrived at that state? I had been suffering for an extended period of time by then, and had become sick of being sick. The unpredictability was frustrating and worst of all, there was no hope of better days on the horizon.

A Gradual Decline

That bitter core that we had tapped into didn’t happen overnight. It is always a gradual process, the kind that happens in dribs and drabs, so that you never feel the harshness of a direct blow. It begins with the thought, ‘just for today’, which ends up becoming a regular affair. The first layer is the physical one – our appearances and how we present ourselves to the world.

When that layer peels away for whatever reason – pain, exhaustion, grief – beneath it lies the more vital layers of emotional and psychological well being. When we allow these layers to be defiled by whatever it was that tore the top off, we begin that slow journey of degenerating into an inhuman version of ourselves.

When we arrive at that state, we no longer care if we are nasty towards others, appear ungrateful or crude. Often that behaviour is a reflection of how we’re feeling on the inside. So if you meet someone unpleasant, it might be that they are going through a difficult time.

It is a Mental Exercise

Our physical appearances are visible, unlike the unseen problems festering beneath the skin. It is one thing we can improve, a mental exercise that can be tougher than it looks at times.

This layer may be a superficial one, and of course I let it slip now and then when the pain is too much to bear. But I have also learned that the longer I can fight to keep this layer on, the slower I unravel into that bitter core.

So that is why I try.

To get started, check out Lainie of “Trendable”, who is both a fashion and disability blogger. I enjoy her sense of humour, wit, and smart fashion hacks that are suitable for a range of disabilities!

*Note: This article is based on personal experiences and meant for educational purposes. It is not to be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your own doctor before changing or adding new treatment protocols.

Read More: Is Seeking Help for Your Mental Health Worth the Fuss?

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    For More Insight:

  1. The Importance of Looking Good to Feel Good (
  2. Why I Always Put on Makeup, Even When I’m Struggling With Fatigue (
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Why looking presentable by all appearances is important to me, even though I struggle with chronic pain. Here's what's at stake if I don't. | A Chronic Voice

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February 16, 2021 02:44

I feel the same, and try to ‘keep up appearances’ when I am out and about. Not because I am trying to hide, but because it simply makes me feel more confident and if I feel that way then I tend to be nicer to myself and to others!

Emma England
December 1, 2017 22:17

You’re so right when you say, “..if you meet someone unpleasant, it might be that they are going through a difficult time.” It’s really important to remember that isn’t it, and to try our best not to judge others. As we can never really know what someone else is going through. That’s one thing living with a chronic illness has definitely taught me! I also try and make some kind of effort with my appearance as it does make you feel better – and that you’ve not just given in to how illness can make you feel. I think “the first layer of defence” is a very apt description!

March 15, 2017 04:40

Thanks for the shout out!
Very poetic writing as always, I love it. It is so true and it took me personally a long time to realize I was becoming someone I was no longer comfortable being.
‘So if you meet someone unpleasant, it might just be that they are going through a difficult time’ – I catch myself judging people now and again and I always try to remind myself of this. Thanks for putting it out there. I used to get told things like ‘cheer up’ by total strangers and it used to make me angry as they had no clue how horrible I was feeling!