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

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