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When I Try to Convince Myself I'm the Same 'Superwoman' I Was Before My Illnesses

Nope. I am not. I have no superpowers. No super speed or strength and I sure I can’t fly. I am not superhuman.

I am not Superwoman, but yet, I am determined to be her.

I sometimes forget I am only human and not capable of doing it all. Maybe once I did, but not anymore. I can’t spend a long day at work, come home to cook dinner, and then clean. I can’t spend a Saturday shopping, cleaning, doing laundry and everything else in between. Once upon a time I could, but I no longer can.

Why do I keep trying to convince myself I can? Why do I keep doing it? Why do I think I can?

Because I did. I used to.

And those feelings nag at and stay with me. I used to be able to carry three or four heavy cloth shopping bags and not even think about how heavy they were. Now, I am lucky if I can carry one. But I used to carry three or four! And if I could do it before, why can’t I anymore?

Because that was before chronic illness and pain dominated my life.

I have gotten used to putting on a perfect front to pull through, usually because I have to, not necessarily because I want to. I didn’t talk about cancer when I was scared that I had it. I put on a brave face and didn’t let anyone see how much I was falling apart inside. Even preparing for my surgery and through my recovery, I didn’t ask for help because I have learned there are some things I have to do alone. Mostly, I didn’t want to talk about cancer. I didn’t want to think about cancer. Because two chronic illnesses were enough and I was handling all I could. The words “pre-cancer cells” were all I could take.

A minor surgery and some benign test results later, I am still trying to convince myself I’ve got it all covered. Maybe, because I always do — even when I don’t want to and because I have to. And there is a chance the pre-cancer cells might come back and I’ll have to put on my fake Superwoman strength and try to be “normal,” even when “normal” and I are already worlds apart. And if you look from the outside, all you see is normal. You don’t see rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia pain. You don’t see fears about cancer. You wouldn’t believe I am sick and tired all the time. But you’d be wrong.

Why do I need to show everyone I am more capable than I really am? And how do I do it without falling apart? I can’t, so I am learning to prioritize what’s important to me and let the cards fall as they may. I have to decide what needs to be done and who to put first. In doing so I have angered others, so I have stopped asking for help from these people. Because sometimes “No, I can’t,” just isn’t enough.

I know it doesn’t matter what I planned; sometimes I have to cancel plans. And when I follow through, sometimes the happy me doesn’t look like the me that is in pain and not feeling well. I say, “I am fine,” smile and keep going because I like to believe I am still the Superwoman I once was.

And there is another side to me — the side you don’t see — the one behind closed doors. It’s the side you’re not interested in. The “me” that sometimes struggles to get out of my car due to joint stiffness and pain because I have sat too long. The “me” who hurts too much to go for a long walk. The “me” who is too drained to do something as simple as vacuum. Superwoman? Yes, that is me!

When my world is falling apart, I try to convince myself that tomorrow will be better. It will all be OK and I just need my happy face. And you won’t get to see the side of me that is a mess lying on the sofa, not able to move, the anger and tears because of the level of pain I am in, and frustration because I can’t get my superpowers to work. You don’t get to see that side. And maybe it is all for the best.

I will keep going and maybe my superhuman powers will make their way back home to me once again. But for today, I have this and even if I don’t, I will pretend I do. I might not be Superwoman anymore but I really got this!

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [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.