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Why Self-Care Doesn't Make Me Selfish

Being sick makes me feel selfish. When I was first diagnosed, I couldn’t do things that other people could. I couldn’t go to the grocery store, couldn’t walk to the mailbox. I cried every time I had to walk up the stairs to our second floor apartment. So, for the several months after I got sick, I laid on the couch, and rarely left the house.

It is hard for people to understand when you have an invisible illness. Sometimes I think it would be easier if others could see the manifestation of my symptoms on the outside. I have often felt judged and gotten guilt-tripped because I couldn’t do the activities that others in my group or family were doing. For a long time, I tried to push myself, pretend I was OK, and not in pain. I eventually would hit a wall and not be able to do anything for a week or so. I have learned my limits and understand when I push myself, I eventually will be in more pain.

As hard as it is for others that I can’t do activities with them, I can tell you it is harder for
Not being able to participate with family and friends leaves you feeling isolated. I feel guilty and selfish. It is a constant reminder of what my disease has taken from me and my limitations. These days, self-care is key for me. In fact, I have learned over the years that self-care isn’t selfish. I have carried that with me since being diagnosed. When feelings of guilt and shame come up, I still remind myself of this.

Acceptance is also important. I had to accept the disease of ankylosing spondylitis. I honestly came to the conclusion that I needed to honor what I am feeling. When I am in an extreme amount of pain, I take it easy, rest, and lay down with my heating pad. When I am tired, I sleep. When I am lonely, I try to write about it or reach out to a loved one or someone who understands. These things may sound simple, but they aren’t. I used to be a big people-pleaser and cared what others thought of me. Since getting sick, I had to let some of that go. I still struggle with this. However, when I listen to my body and honor my truth, I know that I am doing the right thing by taking care of myself.

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Getty images photo via Ridofranz