I receive some of the sweetest messages on Twitter and many have taken a habit of not just using my name as you might expect, but call me by wonderful compliments instead, to list them would make me blush from ear to ear and not my intention at all. This morning though one appeared that didn’t make me blush, it made me smile and for reasons that the writer just couldn’t have known, he simply said, ” Let me introduce to you, Miss Pamela.” I haven’t been called Miss Pamela since I was a child, in fact, I don’t remember it past about the age of 8 or 9. I used to go into the family shop every day before school until I was about 9 I wasn’t allowed to do anything apart from wonder around filling time until my sister took me on the bus from there to school. She as I was later, was paid to dust both the basement level and street level displays, but before I was trusted I just walked around looking at different things and sometimes going to the most upper floor to talk to the cabinet makers we employed to do restoration work. There were 3 or occasionally 4 men who worked there, all must have been in their 70’s, not only from a child’s eye, but they were all bald with white or grey moustaches and employed because of their life long skills. They were the first people ever to call me Miss Pamela, it spread around the rest of the staff and from then on it was how they all greeted me until I actually joined the payroll myself. I remember how it made me feel, cared for and just that little bit important somehow, now I know that it was nothing but old-fashioned curtsey to the owners granddaughter. Being greeted this morning, in the same way, brought a flood of happy memories and even the smells of all the traditional glues and polishes they used, not all pleasant, but all clear in my mind. It’s mad how that came through clearly but yesterday well is mainly a mist.
Self-image is so important to all of us, but my experience of how we treat it is so mixed up that I still have trouble knowing if we are supposed to be proud of how we look and feel or not. I have never been one for following fashion or even reading all those so-called women’s magazines that fill the shop shelves, but just watching TV means you can’t avoid any of it, no matter how hard you try. I know that since my health has gone, how I look is nowhere near how I looked just a few years ago, I can’t be slim any longer, it’s impossible once you can’t move about. I have no energy or interest in taking time each day to put on make up or even styling my hair, the pain and energy those things take is just too much. Not depression, just practical facts, something that you have to base your life on if you are going to survive. Looking in a mirror could really depress me if I let it, I avoid them, I don’t need to see me, to know how I look now but I don’t let it get to me any longer. I used to almost live on the bathroom scales, now there is no point as there is only one direction the numbers ever go. Self-image now has almost nothing to do with how I look, that side has had to go, but that doesn’t mean that how I see myself is no longer important, it is in many ways far more important.
Thanks to those magazines and TV we have somehow come to believe that self-image is all about looking in the mirror and being happy and proud of what looks back at us, if you have a chronic illness you have to put that aside and concentrate on the image inside of you and your self-worth. Who I am or who your are, is all inside of us, the outside has to be cared for, but we have to take that huge step of letting go of it as much as possible as there is nothing to be done about it, in our modern world it is a hard thing to do. I can no longer admire that flat stomach and slim legs I had, but I can admire how strong I have become, I can’t admire the clothes I wear and how well they fit, but I can admire how well I am coping with something that I never thought I would be able to cope with. The make up may have gone, but I have a clear vision of how I want to deal with my future, the sculpted hairstyles may now just be long and loose, but I also have a feeling of freedom and contentment that make life worth well.
I look daily at a picture beside me, of myself 20 years ago, that strong attractive and very individual woman who looks back at me is gone on the outside, but I have found her inside me. That’s why I keep that picture where it is because it reminds me that she is still inside, just stronger, more capable and more able to survive whatever is in front of me. That picture has become my life mirror, it may not work for everyone but I know without a doubt that we all have to find inside ourselves a feeling of importance, worth and ability if we don’t then we open the doors to depression. Self-worth, self-image, self-importance or what every you want to call it, has to be about you personal internal self, not the now impossible dream of being a magazine model. It is something you have to hold onto tightly as if you let it, your illness will steal that too.
Please read my blog from 2 years ago today – 01/03/2012 – MS inside me
There are some part of my MS that are hard to talk about, even with my husband. Last night I had to brace myself and have one of those conversations. When you are close to someone it can be harder to speak than it would be with anyone else. You don’t want them to see you as anything other than the person they married, especially when you have already had to chip off……