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Beauty In The Lives Of The Chronically Ill

By HERWriter
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Beauty related image Photo: Getty Images

Chronic illness can be pretty monochromatic. It can take any hint of beauty out of life. When getting through a day takes everything you've got ... when the smallest of tasks are overwhelming or impossible ... when your world is limited to your own home or, worse, to your own bedroom ... Beauty may be in short supply.

And when just pulling together the basic necessities of life takes all your focus and energy, beauty may seem a bit ... superfluous.

But it isn't.

I've been dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for going on two decades, and huge blocks of that time have been devoted to lying flat on my back in bed. As I'd get a bit better, I'd be giving it my all when I'd stumble down the hall into the living room to spend a few blurry moments with my family. And then it was time to stagger back to bed.

It was a very basic existence. I had bed hair, often unwashed. I lived in my bathrobe. Making my bed was a ludicrous notion since I was back into it not long after I'd wear myself out in the making of it.

Even getting dishes or clothes washed was a monumental task. So what -- I'm going to put flowers on the table? There was no energy or inclination for this.

But one day, I was out for a rare walk, and was flooded with the beauty of the sunlight reflecting on the water at the beach. I paused and breathed deep. Felt a sense of flooding and rising within my chest and throat, and tears came to my eyes.

I felt a sense of peace. And a hint of joy. I lingered and savored this moment before going back to basic survival mode once more.

And I learned something important that day. Even when beauty seems incongruous ... even when it seems to be completely inappropriate and beside the point -- perhaps especially at those times -- beauty is not a shallow side-issue.

The experience of beauty can bring glimpses of peace into a situation that inherently contains no peace. It can elevate the mood and thoughts when mood and thoughts have been regularly dragging in the dust.

Beauty? It should be a foundational part of every chronically ill individual's life.

Add a Comment4 Comments


Hi Lisa,

I will check with my editor about reprinting. Thank you for your kind words.


September 24, 2011 - 7:35pm
EmpowHER Guest

absolutely beautiful. thanks for putting it into words so well, I have rheumatoid arthritis 18 years/46 years old - founded Invisible Illness Week. (which was last week) if you are able/want to provide reprint, I would love to post this over at http://invisbleillnessweek.com - thank you for your gift of expression.

September 20, 2011 - 9:52pm

Hi Willalee,

I remember you from an article just the other day. Apparently it's the vagus nerve that brings that physical bouquet of sensations to our emotional reactions, and our reactions to beautiful things. I guess we should be stimulating that vagus nerve every chance we get.

Thank you for sharing with me about your husband. And thank you for your kind words.


September 19, 2011 - 10:34am

I must say,it is so true I live with deppression and my friend lives with fibromyalgia.It is so tough to get the energy to do anything.So when I venture out with my dog I go for walks and I can look up at the sky or go to the park and sit on the grass and clear my mind of all the saddness I feel some days.
My husband had the same feelings when he got out for trips,being outside elevated his mood and found peace and comfort .My husband had cancer and everytime he had a chance to go on a trip the hospital would offer he wouldn't decline.He said in a newspaper "Toronto Star," who needs medicine on a day like today and it was a beautiful day.He passed away 2007, just being outside gave him such a lift.Thanks Jody again your article was heart felt you are amazing the way you see things in life, God Bless

September 19, 2011 - 10:17am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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