When the Limitations of Chronic Illness Clash With My 'Inner Worker'

I’ve always been a hard worker. As a child, I did my homework without being told first, and I studied myself into a fretful, anxious frenzy. I was always concerned with doing my best, knowing it all and getting good grades. I wanted to prove myself.

That hasn’t changed much as an adult, and I still find myself anxiously thinking, “Am I doing enough? What did I actually accomplish today? Am I being my best self and living my best life?”

Self-improvement is a good thing, but I live with it often being a weight on me.

My constant desire for bettering myself as a human, worker and thinker leaves me worn out in the wake of my chronic illnesses. I’ve lived with illness my entire life, but as the years piled on, so did the issues and diagnoses. At the age of 27 I have over 10 chronic health issues, am in constant pain and am having to come face to face with more limitations.

It’s not sitting well with my inner worker.

That voice inside me that says, “Get up! Why are you still in bed? You only work 24 hours a week at your job, surely you can use the rest of that time for other work!”

But can I? No, the unfortunate and frustrating truth is that I can’t. I had to drop to part-time work for a reason, and lucky as I am to still have a job where my employers work with me on my limitations, those “measly” three days a week still take it out of me. By Wednesday night, I find myself wanting to go to bed at 7 p.m. and not wake up for 12 hours. I drag myself out of bed the next morning to go to physical therapy and other doctor appointments. Even with improvements from my reduced workload, I still struggle.

And that voice inside me still is upset with me.

Sometimes I am able to forgive myself. Sometimes I am able to recognize that I am doing all that I can. On other days, I feel guilt every second that I have to rest and take care of myself. I have always wanted to be a hard worker. I have never wanted to be seen as lazy. I still worry what people around me think, despite feeling too tired to care on some days.

So today, while I am forced to stay in bed yet again, I’ll try to forgive myself. I’ll try to show myself the same compassion I’d show to someone else. I’ll remind myself that I’m trying, that I’m not lazy and that my best is all I can do. I hope that one day I can silence that voice inside me, the one saying it’s all my fault.

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