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Fighting Back in 2019: The Importance of Practicing Self-Compassion When You're Chronically Ill


And so, we’re solidly into the first week of January. Kwanzaa ended a few days ago, and it’s time to take down the Christmas and Kwanzaa decorations. Well, it was time to do that a couple of days ago. In 2018, I outdid myself with the decorations. In addition to a more elaborate Kwanzaa setup with the first fruits and a new kikombe cha umoja (unity cup) for libations, my friend, my husband and I put up garland and lights on the banisters and throughout the living room of my small townhouse. This is in addition to our 8-foot reusable tree, our stockings and our nativity sets (yes, plural – we have three. My husband is very Catholic).

It took me about two or three weeks to put up the decorations in November and December. Before my fibromyalgia diagnosis, I would do it the evening of Thanksgiving Day, after dinner. It always gave me great joy. It was tradition. Since the diagnosis, it seems like each year, it gets harder to do, and it takes me longer to put up the decorations.

Now, the idea of taking them down has me feeling very low. I’ve already procrastinated for too many days. It’s almost a whole week into the New Year. The negative, critical voices in my head tell me that I am not starting 2019 off right, which makes me feel worse because the anxiety and depression keeps me from doing anything. Do you ever feel this way, dear reader? Self-defeating because of the thoughts that seem to blare like sirens in your head?

So, I can’t bring myself to start taking down the decorations. But I am telling myself, and I am telling you, that I will do it in the morning. And I will endeavor to keep this promise to myself. I will strive to take down at least something, if not everything. I will go in stages, and I will take down a little at a time.

I think we need to try to approach 2019 with compassion toward ourselves and love for ourselves. My therapist tells me to be gentle with myself. I think this is important for us to do in 2019. The world is a tumultuous place. Here in the United States, it can be difficult to remember that there is goodness in the world. There is so much anger and division here. That, plus the “brainbots” (as my favorite podcaster, Scoots from Sleep with Me Podcast, calls those hellish voices) can make it very difficult to get out of bed. But having compassion for ourselves and knowing that we are doing our best, whatever that may look like, is so important. It’s how we fight back. It’s how we make our mark on the world and on those around us, by showing it and them that we dare to keep trying and loving ourselves.

How can I give you advice when I haven’t yet taken my own? Well, it’s a new year, beautiful reader. Tomorrow’s a new day, and that means it’s a new chance to do something good, productive, creative, et al. Let’s take down our decorations, a little at a time, starting tomorrow, and enjoy the day.

Getty Image by MangoStar_Studio