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The Best Gift I Gave Myself in Life With Chronic Illness

When you live with a chronic illness it affects your attitude, your outlook, and your mental and emotional health.  Some of us wear our ailments outwardly. Some of us have no visible symptoms at all. We may find ourselves feeling insulted or even humiliated from time to time, by how others treat us.

We get earfuls of advice from loved ones, who mean well, but just do not understand what we are going through. We may lose friendships and sometimes even family members. We may leave the workforce temporarily or permanently. We might experience the loss of a marriage or significant other, and we may even lose ourselves.

Through my many years of navigating with my chronic health conditions, without an actual diagnosis, I struggled to continue to lead a normal life. I kept pushing myself to do things that I felt I should be able to do, and the push-back from doing so cost me tremendously every time.

I became very distant from others and eventually was isolated.  I felt alone, empty, sad, terrified, frustrated and angry at myself, and at all of the doctors who I had sought out for help to learn what was going on with me. I felt guilty about calling off from work more and more until I was rarely there. I felt guilty because I was no longer able to be a dependable co-worker, employee, friend, minister, wife, mother or daughter.

I did not like the person I was becoming because of my health. I didn’t know who the person looking back at me in the mirror was anymore. Most of the time, I wouldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. Not only did my health change, but my physical appearance changed, too. I struggled as a woman of faith with why I had to suffer so tremendously in a way that was exhaustively and endlessly painful.

Then one day I realized that it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault that I had experienced a physical trauma in my life that may have triggered some of my chronic health conditions. It wasn’t my fault that I had to call off from work because I was unable to function and do basic things for myself like get out of the bed, stand to take a shower, cook, do laundry, tidy up my place, drive and go to the store. It was simply not my fault.

Once I understood that these chronic undiagnosed health conditions were not my fault, I was able to forgive myself and forgive others for any mistreatment, negative words or conversations. I forgave them for them not knowing what I endured for many many years on a day to day basis because I live with mostly invisible illnesses and had conditioned myself to suffer in silence.

If you can relate to anything that I have said, I want you to take a moment and forgive yourself first and foremost, and then forgive everyone else who does not know what it is like to be you. Whether these people are your relatives, your spouse or partner, your children, you co-workers, church members or doctor and their staff, forgive them. There is no reason for you to live with un-forgiveness in your heart towards yourself or anyone else.

You are a warrior. You have proven time and time again that you can make it through each day that you live. You are incredibly strong, smart, beautiful or handsome, and even though you are going through what you are going through, you have the ability to impact others whom you may come into contact with. If you operate in un-forgiveness the impact you have will be a negative one. But if you operate in forgiveness, you can have an influential and positive impact on others.

Give yourself and others the best gift you can possibly give, which is forgiveness. Now that you’ve done that, continue to strive be the best you can despite the mountains you may have to climb in your life.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images.