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Why I Struggle With Self-Love as a Person Who Has Chronic Pain

It’s official, folks: I have come to the conclusion that loving yourself is significantly more difficult than loving someone else. I’m never smart enough, witty enough or beautiful enough (as I see it) ‚Äď and yet I love¬†my¬†partner, family and friends as if they were made of rainbows. Why is this? How do I make it stop?

Example 1:¬†I was at my yoga studio about a month ago when I overhead a woman (who, in my rosy-colored¬†opinion, looked like she galloped straight¬†out of a J. Crew catalogue) say, “I’m so nervous. I just don’t look like a person who would do yoga.” What? Why didn’t anyone tell¬†me¬†you¬†have to look a certain way to¬†breathe¬†and¬†stretch?¬†You can imagine the panic that set in as I examined my own body’s nooks and crannies¬†while¬†listening to her degrading¬†self-analysis. My leggings were faded from black to a weird shade of chalkboard gray, my arms jiggled like day-old Jell-O salad and the blonde stripe in my hair was snaking through my bun in all of the oddest places. I basically looked like a hungover zebra, you guys.

Example 2:¬†In the fall, about two weeks after one of the¬†harder surgical experiences of my life, I found myself eating a sandwich and suddenly unable to chew or swallow. I laughed a little bit, amused by how little it takes to entertain me at times, but soon realized the left side of my face had drooped. I quickly ran to the bathroom and tried brushing my teeth, with the same dismal outcome. Arm & Hammer dripped down my chin and onto the sink in small, mushed puddles. I rushed to the emergency room, fearful of something like a stroke. The minute I walked in, facial paralysis painstakingly obvious to the triage staff, they tested my blood sugar and quickly inserted¬†an IV. Thankfully, after seeing a few doctors as well as my ear surgeon’s resident, it was determined I had delayed onset Bell’s palsy, caused from the stress of the surgery, which had re-ignited a virus I had hanging out in my body since a childhood case of the chicken pox.

Because of the stiffness of my eyebrow, the inability to close my eye and the sad droop of my mouth, I spent a lot of time holed up at home and embarrassed about the way I looked. When visitors dropped by to visit, I’d coyly cuddle up with a blanket on the affected side¬†or tell serious stories that didn’t require me to crack¬†a smile.¬†But why? Everyone else around me didn’t care. My brother made jokes about Halloween costumes and my boyfriend wanted to buy tiny bells for me to ring whenever I needed something. The self-hate might have been more impactful¬†than the temporary paralysis, which ended up lasting about three months.

I could go on and on but I think you get my point. I’m not very nice to myself.¬†The human experience is polarizing, especially when coupled with chronic pain,¬†and I’m¬†only making it worse by judging myself¬†for what I’m¬†not. Perhaps if I¬†spent more time building myself¬†up and loving who I¬†am¬†and what I¬†do have to offer,¬†I’d¬†rely far less on others and experiences to make me feel¬†whole.

One day, I hope to see myself as the magical unicorn others seemingly do. I want to wake up feeling like homemade marshmallows or the perfect cup of drip coffee. But to get to that point in my life, I think I need to start working a little harder on being kinder to myself, Jell-O arms and all.

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