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3 Ways I'm Learning Limitations as Someone With Chronic Illness

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There is no flag. No big red line or a flashing sign. “Don’t go past this point, this is as far as you can go” doesn’t exist. Your limitations are just that, yours. It is up to you to understand them and figure them out. What a bum hand, right? This isn’t a story where I will share how to best know your limitations and follow them. I don’t even know my own limitations, so it would be pretty hypocritical to tell you how to do better when I am constantly pushing myself too far. This is a story to tell you that I see you. You’re trying. You want to do better, but hey, how can I play a game if I am blindfolded, and the goal is behind me?

I wish I could tell you there is a sign or something you’ll eventually understand. After years of struggling with my own disability, I still have no idea if what I am doing is going to be too much for me. That doesn’t make me a bad person or a burden. It just makes me human. No one has any idea what they’re doing or if they’re going too far. Ask someone who just helped a friend move. A completely able-bodied person and they will tell you “Yeah, moving that couch was too much on me, I threw my back out so bad.”

Becoming disabled doesn’t mean we have the roadmap to self-care. It honestly can be the exact opposite. Going from “normal” to disabled is a rough transition and no one is there to explain where to go. Even I can’t tell you where to go, but I can tell you what has helped me.

1. Saying no

Saying no can be one of the hardest things. It is not always just saying the word “no,” it can also mean “I’m too tired” or “that is too much for me today,” or even “can you help me with this?”

You don’t have to say no to a person, you can say no to an expectation or even yourself. It is OK to say no when you need to. I found this amazing thing when I started saying no. People came to help, and I felt better emotionally as well as physically. Knowing there are people there ready to pick up the slack and help you balance everything you need? Invaluable. If you don’t have that? Reach out to someone, anyone in your life. Tell them about your day, have them help you with the emotional burden of existing that day for you.

2. Being loose with plans and expectations

My anxious brain does not like this one. Don’t make back-to-back plans for the weekend. Do a single thing, and then if you feel up to it? Awesome! Do another thing. Don’t lie to yourself. Just say “if I am feeling up to it, sure!”

Those around you will be understanding and supportive, because they love you. If they start to get frustrated at your lack of solid plans, explain to them. This is to make sure you don’t cancel on them, to make sure that you stay healthy and able to do things you need to.

3. Everything is morally neutral

This was a hard one for me to learn. A clean house? Doesn’t make you a good or bad person. It makes you just a person with a clean home. A dirty home? Same thing, morally neutral. You aren’t a good person for getting a shower and cleaning your room. You aren’t a bad person for not getting a shower and watching Netflix instead of cleaning your room. These actions are morally neutral.

Be kind to yourself. You are doing your best.

Getty image by isayildiz

Originally published: May 12, 2021
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