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Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Chronic Illness: Bathing Suit Season and Us

I saw it the other day. Had to blink and clear my eyes to make sure I’d seen correctly. Yup. It was there. Plain as these springtime-lengthened days. What was it?

An advertisement for bathing suits.

What is a lupus patient who cannot go out in the sun, let alone go to the pool or beach, doing writing about bathing suits?

Well, more to the point, I’m talking bathing suit season – and with it, all the other appearance-driven things that can be frustrating, challenging, and sometimes even comedic for those of us with chronic illness. What do I mean by that? Well, for me, as well as people who have had skin cancer and some other sun-sensitive conditions, there is the need to stay covered up, even when the mercury soars and the sun is brilliant. Long sleeves, long pants, a broad-brimmed hat, and even gloves are still part of the year-round wardrobe, sometimes causing others to stare or comment. Once, at a conference, a fellow presenter shook his head at me and said, “You look very overdressed.” I wasn’t, by lupus standards, but I knew it would take more explaining than I had energy to give to help the man understand why I was wearing long sleeves and a hat when other women weren’t. Sometimes, not saying anything is more potent than saying a lot.

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For those who can put on summer-ier clothing, there can still be awkward issues, especially if the chronic illness has caused weight gain, skin discoloration, or other visible manifestations. These can be easier to “hide” in winter’s bulky sweaters and coats. But in summertime, well, not so much.  And then there is the situation for those of us with alopecia areata/totalis/universalis – complete hairloss. Nothing like wearing a wig when it’s 80 to make you truly appreciate times when you can do without in the quiet and cool comfort of home!

Bathing suit season’s challenges for us are, I suppose, not all that daunting when you think about the other things we have to face. But they do make us think about appearance and how we feel about how we look. Of course, we are each beautiful in God’s eyes, and in the eyes of those who truly care about us. And the negative health ramifications for, say, not protecting the skin from sun exposure, are not worth any societal acceptance. In fact, there are benefits to being more cautious; once not long ago, a young woman asked me what I did to keep my skin in good shape. I told her I avoided the sun. She didn’t look entirely convinced, but I could see she was going to think about what I’d said.

So, ready or not, here come spring, summer, and bathing suits! Let’s make the most of this time, like all others, however we may appear!

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

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