Being a chronically ill fashion blogger
Hi everyone! My name is Olivia Cole; I am nineteen years old and have suffered with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E) and Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) for nine years. This means I feel constantly exhausted and struggle to leave the house. Being chronically unwell takes up my whole life, but on better days I try and run my blog, Olivia H Cole, to keep my passions alive, whilst also trying to keep some normality to my life and have a moments escape from feeling unwell.
Fashion, makeup and photography have always been passions of mine from a young age, so blogging’s always been such a fun way for me to explore all three. Growing up around my mum and nan has fuelled my love for the fashion of their eras and mixing the old with the new, and this is what I do on my blog: model pretty outfits and makeup looks, share with people where I found them and interact with others…
Well that’s how it should be, but chronic illness means that things don’t often go to plan.
My mind is constantly full of ideas for photos and perfect places to shoot, but instead of the greenery and forests around Essex I love visiting, I’ll end up standing against a white wall in my bedroom. Outfits I buy sit in my wardrobe for weeks until I have the strength to put them on- I know I can’t leave them for too long in case they go out of stock before my followers can get their hands on them.
It may seem strange that something as simple as getting dressed is such a task for me, because my disability is so unapparent. The illness has always been so internal that when it comes to getting medical help, I’ve found myself having to sell an image of myself that I don’t like just to feel believed. This goes as far as never wearing makeup or outfits that make me happy to medical appointments, accentuating my pale skin and glassy eyes to make clear that something’s wrong. I’ve learnt to do this from past experiences, where doctors complementing me on how well I looked led to a lack of trust when discussing my health. When you’ve only got so much energy, you have to make things more transparent than usual just to feel understood. Wearing makeup ended up becoming a way to help me feel like myself again.
Looking over photos of me on my blog, it can sometimes feel like seeing images of someone else. But one thing I’m passionate about showing online is that you don’t need to look unwell to be unwell. We’re making progress, but there’s still a long way to go concerning the stigma around invisible illnesses: I hope that my awareness campaign, CFS Selfies, will help to inform and educate people on this issue too.
After nine years of being unwell, I’ve reached a point where all I want to be is me. There’s more to somebody than their illness and it’s not their responsibility to portray different versions of themselves for the sake of others’ ignorance. If my experience and blog can help others going through the same situation to never forget themselves, then I’ll have felt like the hard times have been worthwhile.
Can you relate to Olivia’s experiences? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!