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When You Finally Stop Trying to 'Prove' Your Illness to Others


Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

I spent the first part of my life trying to prove myself to everyone.

I tried to prove to my father that I wasn’t the same as his other child. I tried proving to him that despite the problems we have in life, joy is possible.

I tried proving to family members that I was giving it my all. I was determined to get this “life” thing right.

I tried proving to my employers that I was an incredibly hard-working person and not a whole lot was going to stop me from learning, growing and advancing.

I tried proving to my best friends that I would never hurt them. I would do anything to ensure their happiness. I bent over backward for them, even if it meant allowing them a better shot at stabbing me in the back later on. Anything so they wouldn’t feel the pain I had witnessed all my life.

I tried proving to doctors for almost a decade that I was truly sick and my body was fighting me on a systemic level.

I’ve had to prove to acquaintances that I am really sick, as an invisible illness is a double-edged sword. “You don’t look sick” is both a blessing and a curse. Should I say “thank you” or “are you saying I am a liar?”

I’ve spent all that time proving to everyone around me that I am sincere and a good person to have in your corner because if it meant hurting me or hurting you, I would always pick me.

But now I’m 35, chronically ill and all of a sudden I don’t have a thing to prove anymore.

I don’t have to prove to you or me or the neighbor that my body is fighting me on a level you can’t understand.

I don’t have to prove to you that I could have been a really great friend — that it could have been ride or die, you and me, because I already know who I am.

I don’t have to prove to anyone how I process feelings and emotions. I already know I suck up the sadness and the anxiety that surrounds me in order to lift it away from you. This results in some heavy emotions and feelings I am left to discard and if I am too much for you, then go find someone else because honestly, I could be your rainbow after the storm.

I don’t have to prove to anyone the kind of past I lived. As I’ve grown older and re-examined the circumstances of my childhood, I am fully aware that I took the dark and painful parts and let it mold me into a person who has empathy and can see things from a different light. I can relate to a number of different circumstances in life that many don’t experience even once.

I saved someone who had already attempted suicide. I’ve lost friends to suicide. I’ve felt the pain of myself almost giving up.

I’ve been sexually assaulted. I’ve been victim-shamed and gaslighted.

I’ve seen people hurt.

I’ve seen people die.

I lived in fight or flight mode for far too long, until my body finally turned on me — permanently, it seems.

But I don’t have to prove any of this to anyone anymore.

Now as I look back on life, I will allow the painful parts to bubble up and overflow. In order to survive it at the time, I swallowed it down and said: “I’m fine.” In fact, I look back on my younger self and I’m so proud of her. I only wish she was here now because I could really use a little bit of her courage and tenacity.

I spend hours upon hours, five days a month, alone at the hospital. There is nothing that screams “alone” more than sitting glued to an IV pole for five to six hours a day, twiddling my fingers and knowing all six of the nurses’ lives in detail because, for 25 to 30 hours, I’ve been listening to every word they’ve said.

I may be isolated and lonely as an adult living with chronic conditions, but I refuse to give up now.

I have two beautiful girls who remind me daily how much they love me and I feel their love. They fill my cup up when it’s low and keep me going. I have a wonderful husband who never, ever makes me doubt his love.

I don’t have to prove myself to them. I’m never too much for them.

I have questioned my children’s and husband’s sanity. Why are they still with me? Why haven’t they given up on me yet? Why don’t others see what they do? When I tell my husband this, he reassures me I am not the waste of space that my unfortunate experiences in life would like to trick me into believing.

But, at 35 years old, without a group of friends at my side or a so-called “village,” the only person I have left to prove anything to is myself.

I don’t need a fantasy tribe to build me up. I need to find the peace within myself. Happiness is a state of mind and I won’t let a little loneliness dictate whether I am happy or not. I’m going to prove to myself how much I can be loved and valued, sick or not, at the hospital or home, laughing or crying.

Whether I can do what I used to do or not, I will prove to myself I still have value in what I can do and, most importantly, in who I am.

I will be what I am looking for.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash