This year, my chronic pain reached new heights, and I was formally diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses. I spent a substantial amount of time in waiting areas, exam rooms and pharmacies. My illnesses can be limiting, and this year they were more debilitating than ever before.
I’ve spent the better part of the year feeling sorry for myself, judging myself and beating myself up. I haven’t been able to meet my own expectations when it comes to employment or creativity. I constantly worry I’m not living up to society’s expectations by falling short of the norm of the 40-hour work week.
It feels like the whole world is judging me for not being productive enough, not earning enough money and not being independent enough. Even though I know my pain and illnesses are real and incapacitating, I say horrible things to myself every day and berate myself for my inability to live a normal life and do what I imagine the rest of the world is doing with no problem.
I tell myself I’m worthless.
I tell myself I’m useless.
That’s why I only have one New Year’s resolution this year: to stop judging myself for being chronically ill. I want to be kinder to myself and more understanding of my limitations. I want to stop imagining that the world sees me as useless and recognize that I always do the best that I can. I work through my pain every day. I take care of myself. I’m lucky to have support systems that allow me to pursue medical treatment and rest when I need to. And I won’t necessarily feel this way forever.
Although none of my conditions have a set end point, and I’ll likely struggle with them to some extent for the rest of my life, all I can do is be gentle with myself and work as hard as I can. I know it doesn’t help when I tell myself I’m a waste of the world’s time and space. Dwelling on my pain and all the things I can’t do only makes it worse.
I resolve to be more understanding of myself the way that I hope others are understanding of me. Just because I struggle and can’t do everything that healthy people can do doesn’t mean that my life isn’t worthwhile or valuable.
I will continue to seek opportunities that work for me and my body. I won’t push myself too hard just because that’s what’s expected of me. I’ll do everything I can to keep up, to earn money, to be social and to live a happy life. As long as I do those things and as long as I try my best, I’m accomplishing what I need to accomplish.
I resolve to take care of myself and give myself permission not to be perfect, to take breaks and to ask for accommodations when I need them. I will not be embarrassed or ashamed of what I go through, nor will I allow anyone to make me feel like I’m faking or “not really sick.” Including myself.
In 2017, I resolve to be more accepting and patient with myself, even when things get tough or seem hopeless and when it feels like the pain is unfair or will never end. I resolve not to let my illness define me and the way I live my life, but I will also accept when I need to slow down or stop to take care of myself.
It’s a lot to ask, but in 2017, I’m going to try to be kinder to myself about my chronic illness.
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