Sunday, 14 February 2016

The necessity of self love in chronic illness...

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The timing of this post aligns with that of February 14th. We are approaching Valentine's Day, the marmite holiday of the year. A day based upon showering our better halves with love and adoration. It seems very superficial that a single day should be dedicated to such an attitude, but that is society. The majority of those celebrating are so focused on receiving love from a significant other on this day in question, that it made me realise the impact of what we should be doing everyday within ourselves. It felt like the perfect time to address self love, self esteem, self respect and self worth in chronic illness and disability. I hope this is somewhat helpful for those who may be reflecting at this time of year or feeling unloved or unhappy within their illness or disability.

I have debated a lot over how to approach this subject and decided to try an honest account and my own experience within this area of chronic illness. This is a topic I felt the need to approach in occurrence to living with chronic pain, illness and disability for over a decade. A situation where your daily nature is to live in pain and without meaning to, your world ends up revolving around illness. You lose touch with the world and who you are as an individual. Unfortunately it can be difficult to view yourself as something other than someone only consumed by pain. Your quirks and qualities are taken for granted because they can not always be seen by yourself. In a situation like my own, life has been on pause for many years whilst my health remains inconsistent and largely, out of control. Life goals come to a grand hault and with that, your perception of inner qualities nosedives. I think it is no lie that many of us when diagnosed with a disabling condition lose touch with loving ourselves. It takes a back seat, typically because we are so focused on fixing our bodies and controlling our illnesses. When that is not the solution, you are left at a loss with a continuous neglecting element towards your self worth.

Self love, worth and confidence are attributes I think we all struggle with at some point in our life. They seem to come hand in hand with the turbulence that is chronic illness and disability. I know that through being chronically ill and disabled, I have found self worth a really testing fundamental value. When you are consumed by illness, it can be so hard to remember that you also rightly, deserve to feel worthy and loved. Your body has tendencies to betray you in one of the worst possible ways everyday so it is no wonder your worth attempts to re-evaluate itself. Daily life has been overtaken by chronic pain, medications with side effects and your body is no longer your temple, it feels like somebody else is in control.

This post felt like something that those reading could all individually reflect and work on, whether we currently struggle with the issue or not. Self love and worth is a work in progress value in life. You have to love yourself wholely in order to receive love. You have to have a bit of self belief and respect to get anywhere in life and you have to believe you are deserving despite the circumstances you find yourself in. Illness however can make your life feel incredibly bleak, empty and force you to feel like much less of a person. Less entitled and instead inclined to suffer at the hands of chronic pain. I don't know how it manages to make many individuals feel this way, but it does. This factor is one of the driving forces behind trying my hardest to raise awareness for future generations of those who are live with disabling illnesses.

Living with a chronic illness or disability alters your self esteem. There is a period of finding your feet and becoming accustomed to your new normal, but it never does feel 'normal'. It feels different and non realistic, in a strange way. As if it is all perhaps just a bad dream and you will wake up soon. Once over the initial shock of your new reality with a disabling illness, you feel elements of yourself plummet. Possibly with how you perhaps view yourself, your looks, your personality and your worth. I have always been a firm believer in understanding that attaining my worth through that of someone or something else is typically incorrect. I know that the responsibility lies solely in myself. Yet I do have my moments where disability and chronic illness feels like it has compleltey stolen my worth, instead leaving me to feel pretty worthless. Self esteem, self worth and self love all feel pretty non existent the more I decline in health or the more disabled I feel my body become. I feel like my illness has made me unloveable. It's complexity has done that. I feel like a burden, in the way and very undeserving in many ways.

When you live with a chronic, disabling illness, pain becomes a huge part of your existence. You can not overlook it, pass it aside or ignore it. Chronic pain revokes many attributes of your personal life and replaces them with an existence of being confined to beds, homes or mobility aids. Your self esteem is obviously going to take a nosedive in such circumstances. The self love and worth you perhaps once had ends up being replaced by the nature of chronic pain and the daily disruption of chronic illness. You individuality is replaced by a disability for a while alongside this. Pain is some thing many do not have control, nor a choice over. It's a simple case of dealing with something whilst secretly wishing that it was not a part of you. Yet it is a part of you, it is with you at all times. The more you focus on that however, the harder it can be to push through and get through each day.

Self love has a lot to do with feeling positive about yourself, your life and finding the time for self care. Living purposefully and meaningfully are also valuable elements amongst this. Whilst I can not outright dismiss all of the above, it is really difficult to feel content in the mundane circumstances that are chronic illness. I know that personally, I have questioned my worth almost weekly in my disabling chronic illness. We keep trying because we know we can not just rule the above out of life when living with chronic illness and disability, that would be admitting defeat. Whilst some do not like to wallow in the self pity that can come with disability or illness, others like myself do really struggle with acceptance because quality of life is still incredibly minimal. With this minimal circumstance of living comes loneliness like no other.

I've always found it extremely difficult to love myself since coming to the realisation that I lived in daily pain. The longer I continue to live in pain, this feeling has never subsided. The introduction of a wheelchair also heightened my dislike for who I have become. My worth plummeted and continued to remain very low. Chronic illness is a position I really do not want to be in, but find myself stuck in, possibly like many others. Bettering myself is a fight all in itself when living in constant pain. Despite knowing how necessary self love is, it does not happen with ease for myself and possibly many others in similar circumstances. Being constantly reminded of pain and disability can drag an individual down, despite remain optimistic. I understand how important self love is. It can ultimately allow you to feel confident and happier in yourself and who you are, it's a place I do wish to reach in the near future. I want others to love Nancy and not just see an defining element of illness, disability or a wheelchair. I know that in order for others to get to that stage, I am the person who needs to reach it first and am willing to get there. That will be the biggest hurdle to overcome.

I know that I am incredibly capable of giving love to others, I just struggle to take the same perspective towards myself. I can manage to support and give advice to others, yet really struggle to be kinder and more loving towards myself. We are all probably guilty of that however. By self love, I'm not talking about an indivials vanity or acknowledging how wonderful and successful they are, but actually feeling confident and content within their own skin. I have said for a long time that I feel like an illness. When living a lifestyle of being debilitated by overlapping conditions, it is hard not too. I end up feeling all I am not. I feel isolated, lonely and unloveable in many ways too. I have really struggled with accepting myself as disabled. It makes me feel awkward and embarrassed. I am trying to embrace it more and trying to hide it less, but my main goal is to not allow it to be  the sole focus when around others.

Whilst I can not preach about self love because I struggle with it myself, I thought I would just bring to the surface how important it is to regain for those with chronic illness. The moral of this post is that we should perhaps become more lenient to what we go through everyday and gain some inner respect for ourselves. To find some love and worth on both our good days and bad. To give ourselves a pat on the back when we continue to battle through pain and push ourselves to remain positive,optimistic and hopeful, even when we want to give up. That is what deserves our self love and adoration. Whilst we should not think of ourselves heroically for being disabled, we should be kind to our feelings,  rather than ashamed or unhappy over the cards we have been dealt. As we would perhaps treat a younger sibling or family member. There is that great exercise of speaking to your young self when looking at a picture. How you would nurture or ease their worries and concerns. How you would be kinder and more forgiving.

For a long time I've been stuck in a very undeserving mindset. I often feel like if I don't have my health, that it makes me less of a person. It has made me feel undeserving of life's happier attributes because they just never seem to arrive. My disability has the ability to allow me to feel like society and my peers see me as less of a person, or perhaps what I have to offer makes me less of a person. I realise that is just a mindset and in time, it can be adapted, altered and changed. It became a mindset thrust upon me as a result of my life being on hold in many ways because of a disabiling illness. An illness that is incurable and has the potential to never fully disappear. Weirdly, I know what I would tell others who also thought this way. That positive is where I try to adapt this to myself, to be kinder to myself and address my thoughts from a different perspective. I try to counteract the negative thought patterns by replacing them with something positive. It doesn't always give positive results, but it is worth the try.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Nancy. First of all, wish you a very happy Valentine's Day from India. I dunno how I came to your blog but I am glad I did! I am about to turn 17 in the coming March. As a boy, I have a lot of responsibilities on my shoulders of getting good grades and many others. But hardly does anyone know how hard it is to live without any sense of self worth and self confidence even in the most trivial of everyday pursuits. This has been happening since the past six months and I have caused myself needless suffering because of this. Your post gave me hope and also a realization that, eventhough I am depressed for no apparent reason(Just no sense of direction and self worth maybe the reasons), I am gifted with awesome health and am leading a pain-free life- Which I now know is so big of a blessing in itself, which if you had nancy, I know you would rule the world ;)
    But all in all- We have a lot in common. On reading your posts, I felt it was not you but me who had written this(except the pain part). I am looking forward to havr friendship with you for a lifetime, encouraging and supporting each other and sharing life's delicacies. Come on, We are both struggling at the same time, trying to muster hope and self-worth.
    Hugs and Laughter,
    Oh yeah, here's my email:
    Do message me.
    And heck, btw: what's yours?