Why I Changed My Attitude About Illness From 'Why Me?' to 'Why Not Me?'

Ever had that kind of week where everything that could go wrong did?

Not only did I sprain my ankle for the third time this summer, but things at work got “interesting” and I had some personal drama. Hit after hit just kept coming. I kept wondering, why, on top of dealing with my chronic illness, was everything else going down the drain? Essentially feeling sorry for myself and asking “why me” to the universe.


I know I’m not the only chronically ill person who gets stuck in this mindset.

It happens – we are humans, who deal with more than our fair share of difficulties, most invisible to typical people. People don’t peg me as someone who is struggling on most days, because I can be really good at putting on a front. I was ready to throw it in though as my own self was getting in the way of my mental well-being.

But I had a moment during that rough week where my mindset shifted. I was about to pull out of an event, afraid of failing because of the week I had been having. Someone asked me during that time if the “why me” attitude was productive. After some contemplation, I realized it wasn’t. My illness has robbed me of a lot, but it shouldn’t rob me of my self-worth too. I am not defined by my illness.

I shifted my focus to the event. It was a big risk for someone with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – my trainer and father had convinced me to swim in the ocean for a race. Why couldn’t I swim in the race and do well? Yes, dislocations were a risk, but I had trained really hard to be careful to avoid them in my swimming. Why not me be the one to swim in the ocean for the first time and do well? (I did really well.)

I have a huge interview coming up – why not me to be the one to get the job? Why not me to be one of the first persons with a connective tissue disorder to compete in open water swims? (I’m looking at swimming across Chesapeake Bay next season.) Why not me to be as successful as my classmates in graduate school this fall?

Just because I have this illness doesn’t mean I have to limit my expectations of myself. Physically, some things may never be possible for me, but I’m done yearning for what I can’t do and can’t have. No more of “why me” and much more of being empowered by thinking, “Why not me?”

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Thinkstock photo via microgen.

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