It’s not vainity; it’s part of chronic illness

Written By: JoJoisms - Aug• 25•14
So, apparently, I’m an OLD, middle-aged person. I had my dr appointment the other day. First thing he said was that, based on my skin, I haven’t been taking my hormone replacement therapy. I reminded him that he didn’t prescribe it yet because he wanted me to have some tests. That explains it, he said.  I’m not even 52 yet and my skin is saggy, baggy, thin and wrinkly. I have osteoporosis, my hair is almost entirely grey, and I have the teeth of a 70 y/o. But my dr says he can fix all that (well except for the teeth). I guess my kids are right…I’m ANCIENT. But hopefully not for long! Then they’ll have to find a new term for me…like…NOT Ancient! Yeah…that new term might need a little work.

I posted about this on Facebook and someone asked me why I was so fixated on my looks when God loves us as we are.  I’ve had people tell me that, if I were a good Christian, I wouldn’t be concerned about my looks because that’s vain.

If you are fixated on your looks to the exclusion of all else or so focused you are depressed about all the good things in your life, that is a problem.  But if you are fixated on your looks because, in the last 12 months, you have aged ten years, that’s a different problem. One you need to address.  If the way you look adds to your depression, that’s is a different problem still and that needs to be addressed.  Not in a vain way, but in a main way. Taking care of yourself so that you feel better…at your best…the best you can be despite chronic illness so you can serve the Lord.

This was me about two years ago and this is me about a year later.  Notice that the second picture shows my skin is pale, red and blotchy, saggy around the mouth and my turkey waggle is much more pronounced.  The last picture was quite a while ago now too.  My recent video sharing my 35 year journey with chronic illness shows how I’ve aged even more since.

JoJo YouTube     New Glasses1

If you don’t suffer from chronic illness, you don’t know what this feels like to age ten years in 12 months.  If you don’t have chronic illness, you have no idea what it’s like to be middle-aged and feel like you are 80.  If you don’t deal with chronic illness, you have no way of knowing what it does to your mood to walk by a mirror and see your grandmother, when you’re only 45!

It’s not vanity; it’s part of chronic illness like Hashimoto’s Disease, adrenal fatigue, Chrone’s Fibro, etc.  But even if it were a fixation on how we look, isn’t everyone trying to look their best?  Doesn’t everyone do things to make their appearance better  and more youthful before going out in public?  How many women do you know who wear makeup?  Put on their Sunday Best clothes before going to dinner?  How many dye their hair when it gets gray?  How many die their hair just because they think they’d look better blonde?  Why does it make me a bad Christian because it upsets me that my chronic illness has made me look old before my time?  After all, if you’re 80 and look old, that’s natural.  If you’re 51 and look 80, that’s a bit depressing, isn’t it?

So if you don’t suffer from chronic illness, please don’t judge what you don’t understand.  Please don’t tell her she’s making a big thing out of nothing.  Don’t tell her she’s too fixated on her looks.   Don’t tell her she’s vain because she’s mourning the loss of her youth.  There is a great deal more she’s morning than just her youthful appearance.  She’s struggling to accept the fact that her body no longer does what she should be able to do.  She’s coming to terms with feeling old and missing out on things you take for granted.  Think about how just plain shocked you would be at 48 to walk by a mirror and see an old lady staring back at you…wearing your clothes.

What say you?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. Joanne Griffing says:

    I totally understand. Lupus made my skin stretch (from swelling everyday from the age of 18 yrs old until 35 yrs old so YES I understand walking by mirrors. I didn’t even look in mirrors as I thought I was that ugly. I was so tired of wearing make up to cover then just to have it melt off when I had a mentalpause moment. So YES I understand.

    My eyes had so much extra skin (from stretching, my College Professor allowed me to wear sunglasses in class because my eyes were that bad. So YES I understand. I also did something about it and I could care less what anyone thinks.

    So far no one has even noticed I had much work done on my face. It’s MY face.

    So yes, I suffered from Lupus, I died, I came back, and I’m okay with “improving” myself. Heck I use to put make up on without looking in a mirror that’s how ugly I thought I looked.

    People judge-that’s THEIR problem. BTW I am 52 yrs old on the outside, 25 yrs old in my heart…….

    Good for you!!!

    In Love and Light,


  2. I know EXACTLY what you mean, Jo Jo! I am considerably older than you, Im 64, but I feel so much older, and look older. I have aged ten years during this past year. My husband of forty-five years, left me, just out of the blue, for his cousin! I have always suffered with depression. It has been unbearable for the past year! I hate to even look in the mirror anymore!

  3. Susie says:

    I completely understand what you wrote about. I wonder if our Christian brethren realize how UN-Christian they are when they judge and throw stones (while in glass houses I might add). That’s why you are an awesome you… funny, loving, and kind even when you feel horrible. Someone told me the other day that I was so positive for having just gone through major surgery and while still in recovery. Yay me! 🙂

    Keep it up JoJo! YOU ROCK!

  4. darrell says:

    I suffer from KIDNEY DISEASE

  5. JoJoisms says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Joanne! God bless you!

  6. JoJoisms says:

    Oh ((Shirley)). I’m so sorry. I do understand. God bless you.

  7. JoJoisms says:

    I’m so sorry, Darrell. Praying for your treatment.

  8. JoJoisms says:

    Thank you, Susie. Continued prayers for your recovery.

  9. suzanne says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I know that im not Alone.
    Last week i went to Costco with my friend, who happens to be two years older than i. We ran into her male friend from church. He asked if i was her mom. I cried the rest of that day on and off. My sweet friend tried to confort me and tell me his comments were unfounded. But i know She was just trying to be nice, ive had other people make similar comments. Easy for people to tell you not to be so vain when the comments arent directed at them. Im sorry jojo, But i do understand. Love you sweet lady. Thanks for sharing.

  10. JoJoisms says:

    (((hugs))) to you Suzanne. Thanks for sharing your story. God bless you.

  11. Joan says:

    Well, JoJo I’m going to start off by saying I know we haven’t actually seen each other in a while, but in your pictures, I honestly do not see you aging. Your face looks a little thinner in the second photo (wow, I will take a thinner-looking face, please!) and you don’t look as perky (which is understandable since you’re not feeling well), but other than that you look the same. Also in the video you have your hair pulled back which gives a different look, but you still don’t look old.

    Now, as you know, I deal with this topic of beauty quite a bit as a speaker, and with the workshops and seminars I do for girls and women. In this venue,and even in my work as a photographer, I find that women tend to be overly critical of themselves and how they look.

    The very unfortunate thing about our society is an unrealistic emphasis placed on beauty–girls get the message from a young age that you have to look a certain way in order to be acceptable, and these unrealistic expectations have been shown to be at the heart of such issues as eating
    disorders. And so it continues on through womanhood.
    Much time, effort and expense is spent on attaining ‘beauty‘. In my workshops with girls and young women in dealing with this issue of beauty and body obsession, one question I routinely ask… ‘If looks didn’t matter, what other things would you spend your time and money on?

    Another unrealistic expectation we all deal with, but women get it worse than men, is that of perpetual youth. (How often do you hear of women turning in their older husband for a younger model). If society embraced wrinkles and sagging skin as an outward sign of wisdom and a person to be honored for such, I daresay we wouldn’t be so quick to detest these progressions of age ( Oh, for just one sip from that Fountain of Youth!) These are societal pressures that affect us all, whether or not we admit it, and are exacerbated with physical illness.
    I’m not downplaying the issue. Just stating that our ‘look-obsessed’ society tends to bring an elevated criticism of self to s person that’s dealing with health issues. How someone feels physically affects their view on many things… including how they look. ‘I feel like crap, therefore I look like crap.’

    And I do realize health does actually affect how you look. Just the loss of the spark in the eyes when someone is not feeling well, drastically affects their outward appearance.

    I believe what is important is our attitude and how we choose to deal with what we see. I’ll take just one of the many flaws I see in my appearance, especially those things happening as I keep living and get older.

    I have a birthmark on my face… a dark discoloration of my skin that covers my left cheek area. The elders in my family used to joke that it came about from my mother sitting around during her stressful pregnancy, with her chin cupped in her hand–with her fingers extending up her jaw line. The mark does look like that as it begins under my chin and extends up to my jaw line. In growing up I didn’t like it, but I noticed that many times people wouldn’t notice it unless I mentioned it, Then they would take a closer look and say “aha… you’re right…now I see it! “and then they’d see if forever. (probably should have kept my mouth shut!) And I did spend years covering it with makeup.. makeup darker than the rest of my skin because I’d have to make it match.
    I noticed recently that the discoloration has spread to the other side of my face to the point where if the light hits it just wrong … it looks like I have a beard! Yikes! So I had to decide what to do about it. and I decided I’m not going the makeup camouflage route… at least not to the point where I feel I can’t leave my house without makeup or I’m wondering if people notice.

    As a Christ-follower, I recognize that whatever I’m concerned about I can take it to the Lord without fear that I’m being petty and shallow. Because, what concerns me concerns him. And if my concern about a certain aspect of my appearance is rooted in vanity… he’ll let me know! If turns out it’s something I need to just ‘deal with’ and let him help me release the concern of, then he can tell me that. But nonetheless, I even take things like this to him. I let him know, for example, that I don’t like the way this thing on my face makes me look, and I ask if he will make it where it’s not noticeable and also work in me so I’m not so bothered by it, and reveal to me if there’s any remedy for it.

    Beauty does fade… I believe that’s why Proverbs 31 admonishes women to build on the things that won’t fade, and have that beauty on the inside that shines through to the outside. And because the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, (Heb 4:12), we can use what God says in His word to frame how we view ourselves.

    Words we say to ourselves and about ourselves are powerful. I’m going to share something I received years ago from a ministry called Beautiful Women of God… I have this memorized and anytime I feel insecure and not good about myself, I’ll say this to my self. All taken from various scriptures that tell what’s really lasting and going to make an eternal difference.

    I am a Beautiful Woman of God
    I am a capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman.
    I am far more precious than jewels and my value is far above rubies and pearls. Strength and dignity are my clothing and my position is strong and secure. I open my mouth with skillful and godly wisdom. The bread of idleness, gossip, discontent and self-pity I will not eat.
    The beauty of the world is vain, but my beauty comes from reverently fearing the Lord. Each day I will focus on the present knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for every task.
    I surrender all disappointments, fears, and misunderstandings to the Lord. Forgetting those things that are behind and laying aside every sin and weight that easily entangles me, I press on to the high prize of being a woman of God.
    I am strong in you, Lord, and in the power of your might. God, you are my Father and I am your precious daughter. Jesus, you are my Bridegroom and I am your beautiful Bride. I am created in your image, a picture of your love.

    (Proverbs 31 (Amplified); Philippians 3:13; Hebrews 12:1-3; Ephesians 6:10; John 3:29)

  12. JoJoisms says:

    I agree with you and it’s said quite eloquently and with grace. However, that is not the issue.

    I’m not talking about someone who gets older and looks their age, but is so fixated on how they look that it consumes them or depresses them. I’m talking about someone who is young and looks older just because they are chronically ill. It’s a very different issue to look old and actually be young.

    I also have marks on my face that nobody notices. Just me. They are dark roundish marks the OBGYN called birth marks. They usually appear on pregnant women and go away after birth. I had one with my dd and then again with my son almost 10yrs later. They never did go away. I don’t attempt to cover them up either and I don’t care about them showing. THat’s a completely different issue.

    As I said, most people just don’t understand this unless they have dealt with chronic illness that has made them age rapidly over a short time.

  13. Joan says:

    You are absolutely right. I DON’T know what it’s like to have a chronic illness age me. Just like I don’t know what it’s like for people who have genetic conditions that age them.

    And you brought up something that I wonder about and am even searching for an answer myself (and I’m thinking out loud here)… what is ‘looking your age’ ? How do we determine that? Do we judge by putting all people of the same age in groups and measure how they look… by how many wrinkles they have, the elasticity or lack thereof of their skin? the grayness of their hair? Does feeling old also make people look old–or think they look old?

    And… you do have a ‘balm in Gilead’ so to speak… you have hope that these things can be reversed with the care that your doctor is giving you.

    But… are we perhaps discussing two sides of the same coin? Dissatisfaction with the way one looks… regardless of how it happened… and maybe, perhaps, the remedy is the same?

  14. JoJoisms says:

    I think looking your age is more of a collective thing. It’s a consensus. Obviously, we wouldn’t expect to have someone in their 20s to have wrinkles or the reverse. A person in her 80s NOT to have wrinkles. But there is a general consensus. THough that really isn’t even the issue. It’s not that looking older is the issue, even if you look MUCH older more quickly. The issue is that having chronic illness means having to say goodbye to so many things in your life. THis is just a visual reminder every time you walk past a mirror. Or as many of my readers have reported, having someone assume you are much older. I don’t think they are two sides of the same coin. I think one has nothing to do with the other at all. Being upset that you are getting wrinkles or gray hair due to natural aging is nothing like the feeling of being robbed of your youth, energy, vigor and health because you’ve suffered in silence for 35 yrs with something drs don’t acknowledge or help you with.

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