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A Letter to Myself: You Are Not Your Chronic Illness

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You are not a burden; you are a person who struggles with mental illness in the face of chronic illness and pain. When you think of your best days — sitting in the sun, your head flipped back and eyes scrunched up in laughter; or on the patio deep in conversation with glass of wine in hand; lost in writing, or a project; organizing and pulling the impossible together; or running for hours on end counting dogs as you wind through the streets of the city — this, this is who you are. You are not defined by your struggles, your conditions or your perceived failures.

You are allowed to feel, not only feel but feel deeply and whole-heartedly and a whole gamut of emotions, even in the space of one day. Your emotions, all of them are there be felt and experienced — every good day and bad day and flat day; it’s all part of being alive. You are not too sensitive, or too much. You are a gorgeous, big, hearted-shaped you. It is hard to fathom, but this is a big part of why people love you. For your big heart, not in spite of it.

You are not a burden. Everyone has lows or flat days that they need help coming out of. You are brave for using your words and being vulnerable with those closest to you. You take a deep breath and use your courage, because it’s scary even though you know you’re safe. You are allowed to have needs and to communicate these. Sometimes days are difficult to carry, and you’re being practical about what makes it easier to bear. You are not a weight that slows things down and makes things harder.

You are allowed to rest. You aren’t taking without giving; you’re giving by being open and receptive to the love and care people are busting to show you. People benefit from having you around — you work hard, you make them laugh, you care for them and feed them. You are endlessly kind, thoughtful and caring.  You make them feel valued and inspired and seen. You are allowed to let other people make you feel the same, even when you feel silly or overwhelmed and especially when you feel vulnerable and exposed. You are allowed to be loved and cared for.

You are not a burden; you are brilliant and lovely even when your brain is telling you that you are the worst and are stupid. This is objectively untrue — there are reasons your mood is flat and you aren’t as sharp and quick as you are used to. You are doing a lot of legwork to keep going, and it’s OK to let go of some of it for people to help. You are not a continual stream of bad days even when they seem to run and bleed into each other — you have a normal amount of these just like any other person on earth doing this thing called life.

You are allowed to take your time. You are allowed to have tears streaming down your face while you are laughing your heart out. You are allowed to feel like your body is a stranger whilst being grateful and awed by what it is achieving in your training. You are allowed to have what feels like conflicting thoughts and emotions in concurrence with each other. You are allowed to have dance karaoke parties while you are just spinning your legs on the bike as the door is open, so the neighbors can hear you. You can laugh too loud laying in bed chatting and eating too much garlic bread for any “normal” person.

You are not a burden my dear. You are allowed to work through new and foreign lands holding the hands of people who love and adore you.

Getty image by Ponomariova_Maria

Originally published: February 12, 2020
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