When the Person Being Unkind About Your Chronic Illness Is You


“Be your own best friend. Never ever, put yourself down.” – Paulo Coelho

What would I say to a good friend if our roles were reversed? What if I were healthy, and she was frequently unwell? I know for certain I wouldn’t mutter half the things I say to myself, because it just wouldn’t make any sense.

Would I tell anyone at all to push their body to beyond its breaking point, because work was more important than health? Would I berate them for having to cancel dinner plans yet again? Would I blame them for something they did or didn’t do, due to an illness they didn’t ask for?

The above quote by Paulo Coelho provokes me to ask myself questions I already know the right answers to — responses that are all kinder, more tolerant and more sensible than what I actually do to myself.

I believe it bothered me more than the people involved, or they were aware of my limitations to begin with. Yet I can’t help but feel apologetic whenever something like this happens:

  • Missing important life events of good friends or family — all these milestones of memory marked by dark holes instead of collective color.
  • Having to trouble colleagues with my share of work — let’s face it, nobody likes working overtime, and I hate being the cause of it.
  • Slowing companions down while traveling — either due to my limited
    energy capacity I have to ration amongst activities or just moving along at a slower pace.

The biggest “crime” I have committed in any of these circumstances probably has nothing to do with what I am actually feeling sorry for, but rather, the fact that I have allowed external factors to define how I think or feel about myself.

I admire how some (or most?) people know what they’re worth; they are unafraid to apply the rules of fairness not just toward others, but also toward themselves, which is often the more difficult task.

Perhaps it is some kind of inverse ego or inferiority complex, but whatever the reason, it is time to give it up and start treating ourselves well today — it’s the right thing to do.

Follow this journey on A Chronic Voice.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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