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When Your ‘Invisible’ Can Be Seen ~ How To Handle The Body Shame Of Chronic Illness

At some point in our lives, the image in our mind of the ‘perfect’ body was formed.  Then came the realization that we fell short of those ideals.  Whether we thought we were too fat, too skinny, too skimpy on top, too abundant on the bottom, too tall, too short, too…well, you get the picture.

Depending on the environments we were raised in, and whether the influences around us were healthy or not, we developed a mental representation of ourselves that steered us toward a more ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ view of our bodies.


Chronic illness changes the body.  Up to this point, I have been able to hide the fact that there is anything wrong with me.  Unless I had told someone I had Fibromyalgia and M.E., they would never know.

Over the winter I have developed a slight limp.  It’s not that bad yet, and most of the time I can keep it low-key.  However, that small physical change has caused me to lose the power of choice.  I can no longer choose to keep the fact that there is something wrong with me private.

How to handle the body shame of chronic illness

So the questions begin.  What happens if it gets worse?  How will it look if I need to use a cane someday?  What will if feel like to be judged by others as they form their opinions of me as one who is ‘sick’?  What if…ect.

The truth is, people are uncomfortable with other’s afflictions because they do not want to face their own vulnerabilities.  They project the illness of another onto themselves in the realm of, ‘What if that could be me someday?’, and react negatively simply to avoid any emotional connection with the potential reality of an unwanted future.

You know what?  That realization kind of helps.  Why?  Because you simply don’t have to wear it.  What I mean is, regardless of any vibe someone else may be giving off that makes you feel that you’re being viewed as weak or pathetic, in truth, it’s not about you. It really is their problem.

Leave them in their self-absorption, and know there is no shame to living in a body that’s gotten a little ‘dinged’ along the way.  Living in this world is going to cause wear and tear.  Sometimes the truly beautiful things in this life are the ones that have been worn and faded to a subdued brilliance.

That, and they make some really ‘kick-ass’ canes nowadays!


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  • Reply
    March 26 at 2:49 pm

    Kristine – I LOVE the term “subdued brilliance” Thank you for this encouraging piece! Gives me a more positive take on other’s reactions! SO glad I found your site!

    • Reply
      March 26 at 4:01 pm

      Your so welcome Jennifer! Glad you found it too 😉

  • Reply
    March 26 at 4:06 pm

    This was very inspiring, I have been battling with fibromyalgia the name is new to me but not the pain, I’ve been limping over 2 yeas and hate how I feel when people or family look at me. But you encouraged me thanks so very much.

    • Reply
      March 26 at 4:08 pm

      My pleasure Elizabeth, so glad to have encouraged! 🙂

  • Reply
    March 27 at 6:16 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings Kristine.I too have been limping slightly and have found I need to use a cane for balance and support most days.I have been battling with fIbromyalgia and m.e. for 20 years.I am 60 now and find I am still self conscious whenever I go out with it.

    • Reply
      March 27 at 8:10 am

      Thank you for that Rebecca! WOW, 20 years? You truly are a ‘warrior’! 🙂

  • Reply
    March 27 at 6:59 pm

    No shame no fear just live and keep on keeping on. That’s how I roll.

  • Reply
    March 28 at 8:29 pm

    Actually, I found it easier when I had to use my cane after a knee injury. I had been getting some dirty looks when I would park in a handicapped spot, so using a cane and/or walking with a limp seems to appease some people’s misguided judgment.

    • Reply
      March 28 at 11:11 pm

      I’ll keep that in mind Amelia! LOL! People need to mind their own business 🙂

  • Reply
    Cathy Williams
    March 29 at 3:41 am

    I was very worried when I had to start using a stick 10 years ago when I was only 29 but actually I found that everyone was very positive about it. My mum bought me a fancy stick with raspberries and flowers over it and I do feel better myself with a ‘funky’ stick. The last few years I’ve also been forced into a wheelchair and scooter. Once again I’ve found everyone to be really supportive. I think that often we don’t give others enough credit either and maybe a lot of the fear is our perception of what *might* happen. My blue badge has caused me a lot more problems!

    ps. You’re now in my RSS feed. 😉

    • Reply
      March 29 at 6:11 am

      Thank you Cathy! That’s good to hear, I will definitely keep that in mind 🙂

  • Reply
    Chronic Mom
    March 30 at 12:54 pm

    This is so beautiful. I’ve written about this topic before, but you’ve worded it much better than I ever could. The idea of losing the power of choice is so powerful.
    Chronic Mom recently posted…5 tips for faking a chronic illnessMy Profile

    • Reply
      March 31 at 12:15 am

      What a lovely compliment Shelley! Thank you, you’ve made my night 🙂

  • Reply
    April 5 at 12:52 pm

    I love that you say living in this world there will be wear and tear so so true. We all come in all shapes, sizes, colors, types, and have been dinged differently along the way for sure. Great post hun lovely to see you this week on #ShareWithMe hope all is well and you had a good easter?

    • Reply
      April 5 at 1:38 pm

      Hi Jenny! Thank you, yes it was a very good Easter! Hope all is well with you and yours 🙂

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