On How I Look

I have been writing and re-writing this post for almost two months. You see, I am having a great amount of difficulty articulating the discrepancies between the way I look, the way I want to look, the way I feel, and the way I want to feel. My sense of self is in a constant state of flux and confusion. I have almost completely separated my emotional self from my physical self, and neither are accurately portrayed by my appearance.

If, five years ago, you had shown me a photograph of the way I look now, I’d have thought I look pretty darn good. I am thin, I am tan, I am relatively muscular, my hair is sun-bleached and blonde-streaked. With my boot, I could easily pass for an injured outdoor athlete.

My day to day life involves oscillating between a state of unconsciousness and activities designed to try to make my leg function properly again. Those activities are solely responsible for the way I look.

For the most part, I look the way I do because of swimming. The pool at my YMCA is outdoors. I swim without a cap. Swim caps drive me nuts; the result is chlorine bleached hair. I try to be in the pool about 9:30 am. I swim between 30 and 60 minutes. I burn a lot of calories and have built up some muscle mass. After the swim, I have to sit poolside for about an hour while my leg settles down. I wear SPF 50 sunblock, but spending 2 hours in the sun 5 or six days a week for many, many months has given me a “healthy glow.”

My feelings regarding my appearance vacillate between resentment toward strangers because their perceptions of me are that I am healthy, capable and fit, resentment toward myself because of the unbridgeable discrepancy between how I look and how I feel, and a complete dismissal of my physical appearance because CRPS becomes all-consuming.

Admittedly, the way I look provides a convenient smokescreen. It might actually be the image I try to project to strangers. It secretly might be the image that I try to project to friends, family, and sometimes to myself. It helps me cling to the idea of who I used to be and who I want to be. The reality of how I feel, and how my leg looks upon closer inspection, is too much to bear. I have not fully accepted CRPS into my life, even though it is my life now. I am not yet able to fully identify as a person with a debilitating lifelong condition.

But, my appearance is a lie.

The perception of health is an unfair judgment. I cannot live up to the expectations from others, and from myself, about what the capabilities should be of somebody who has my physique.

Resentment comes when people tell me that I look “better.” Resentment comes when I look in the mirror and see a body closely resembling my old life’s ideal. Outwardly, it reflects the way I used to feel before my accident: sunny, active, athletic, strong, healthy, and full of energy.

However, the true reflection is of all the exceptionally painful work that I have done over the past 2 years and 10 months trying to make my leg function and stop hurting. The reflection I see in the mirror is one of failure, my failure to overcome CRPS and stop it from taking everything I had, and was, away from me.

So, the next time you see me, please try to see me as I am. Try to look past the tan skin and thin, muscular arms; try see my struggle. Try to see the veneer of frustrated sorrow just below a cordial smile. Try to see my crumbling psyche, delicately buttressed by sarcasm, bad jokes, and unfounded hope. And, if you are feeling particularly kind, please try to help save me from my spiraling internal conflict by not commenting on how I look.

Nothing’s As It Seems by Gordi

There are whispers in the air
That tell the stories of our wildest dreams
But leave us empty in despair
But on our own, so everything is as it seems now
When the dark comes so harsh to life
And you can’t shake the shadow above
That’s following you out into the night
Paint your face on with a smile, say to them don’t worry
Carry on just for a while, you’ll get lost and hurry
Can you see it now?
That nothing’s as it seems somehow

And everything you’ve ever lost
Must have a reason it is never found
Convince yourself you’re better off
And you’ll be fine
Or at least that’s how it sounds like
When the dark comes so harsh to life
And you can’t shake the shadow above
That’s following you out into the night
Paint your face on with a smile, say to them don’t worry
Carry on just for a while, you get lost and hurry
Can you see it now?
That nothing’s as it seems somehow

When you don’t know how much is enough
When we’ll get in the way
And you can only bear your soul
When you think that this is your day
But when it’s not and you get shot
You wish for someone else’s luck
But you can’t do nothing
So you must be doing something
Don’t you know what it’s like
To disappear from someone else’s life so you can

Paint your face on with a smile, say to them don’t worry
Carry on just for a while, you’ll get lost and hurry
Can you see it now?
That nothing’s as it seems somehow

(https://genius.com/Gordi-nothings-as-it-seems-lyrics)

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5 thoughts on “On How I Look

    1. Thank you so much. I follow your work and am always amazed… I am so inspired by you to keep trying to overcome this so I can get back to shooting.

      Like

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