How holiday garb has improved my mental health
A vacation realization brought uplifting changes to my daily life with aHUS
“Mind over matter” is an expression I’ve always heard, but I never took it to heart until after my near-death experience. It’s amazing how my state of mind and the perception others have of me can affect how I feel.
In September 2020, I developed atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS) after an asymptomatic bout of COVID-19. I nearly died and spent two months in the intensive care unit with several organs failing, ultimately sustaining damage to several of them. And now I’ll need chemotherapy the rest of my life.
Because of my illness, my life is now consumed with doctor appointments, constant bloodwork, chemotherapy side effects, regular labs, bodily changes, dietary restrictions, medications, and so much more. I spend a lot of time not feeling well; actually, I feel like crap 75% of the time.
But I had an epiphany while on a holiday in Antigua this year. During a chat with a new friend, we discussed how free we feel on vacations, especially when we’re outside the U.S. We’re more open, we feel lighter, we wear whatever we want, and we take more chances and try new things.
As I lay on the beach, those sentiments echoed in my head as the waves gently crashed onto the soft sand by my feet. Why do we feel and act more free on holiday? I always get tons of compliments on my vacation appearance — not only my fashion choices, but my freckles, hair, and makeup. And like anyone else, I enjoy compliments; in fact, they make me feel great — almost good enough to forget my constant feelings of being ill or weak.
Looking good leads to feeling better
Those thoughts led me to decide something: I should dress like I’m on holiday all the time! That applies to the yard at home, doctor appointments, picking up the kids from school, grocery shopping, you name it. If compliments made me feel this good on vacation, then surely I’d feel the same serotonin boost if I got them in everyday life.
A 2016 poll suggested that among aHUS patients who’ve undergone dialysis, 27% or more experience depression and anxiety. I’m definitely part of that statistic, and I need to help myself handle it.
Ever since that trip, therefore, I’ve been following my decision. I dress and do my hair and eye makeup as though I have a runway to walk or an adventure to take. That’s not to say that anyone is required to wear makeup or nice clothes to feel beautiful. But for me, dressing in whatever makes me feel confident and happy is part of my self-care. Perhaps it will be for you, too.
I enjoy the compliments. I surprisingly like when people say, “Well, you don’t look or act like you’re doing chemotherapy or nearly died.” Believe me, when I was released from the hospital, I definitely looked like I’d just spent months fighting for my life. I wore yoga pants, sweatshirts, and messy ponytails like they were uniforms, and my eyes were perpetually sullen.
But looking better today makes me feel better, and each day seems a little brighter. It took me a long time to get to this point, but it was well worth the climb. I still have bad days here and there, but every compliment goes a long way to helping.
Note: aHUS News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of aHUS News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to aHUS.