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How to Love the Skin You're In When Chronic Illness Causes an Identity Crisis

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Editor's Note

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

When chronic illness poses a threat to your identity, it isn’t easy to reach acceptance of who you are. The person you used to be is no longer, and the person you’d like to become is unknown. Being diagnosed with any chronic illness alters our reality — past, present, and future.

When I was diagnosed with HIV in the mid-90s, it caused such a shift in my reality. I was a new mom, 19 years old, and hadn’t a clue what was to come. At the time, the only reality depicted around HIV was death. So, naturally, I began to see myself as soon to be dead meat. This period in my life is where my self-image, self-esteem, and self-worth dived the worst. I saw no future for myself.

Depression crept in during 1996 and led to multiple suicide attempts. Pituitary adenoma in 2011, resulting in four brain surgeries through 2014, AIDS in 2020, and COVID-19 in 2022 all played a part in the woman I am developing into. It’s a constant course of evolution. Personal growth. You may wonder how I am still keeping on with the keeping on. Wondering the same, I have come to know it’s the power of my words, the determination in my spirit, and the grace of God I believe in wholeheartedly that allows me to keep on with the keep on.

My daughter, as innocent as she was in my storm of self-sabotage, also suffered from my identity crisis. And as much as I tried to teach her the fundamentals of healthy self-esteem and self-image, did I truly do a good job having not known what the hell I was talking about? I wasn’t taught about self-love. I surely wasn’t living it. Now that I have learned a thing or two and live in my truth with a clearer sense of self, I can help others see themselves. 

Here are five ways to learn to love the skin you’re in. You can implement these learning tips right now as you’re reading this if you’d like to begin building up low self-esteem due to being diagnosed with any form of chronic illness or mental health condition. This list is not exhaustive; however, as a personal development coach, I believe in getting started with realistic steps, then gradually increasing to more actionable steps as we build momentum. In my experience, it happens organically. I also believe in helping in the most authentic, most effective way possible. The more you believe, the more you can achieve. Are you ready to take your power back?

1. Being true to where we are within ourselves is vital.

Learning to accept that we may not know can be difficult. It’s OK. One step at a time is the approach to take and remember to take your time.

2. Boundaries are super important.

It’s OK to lay some ground rules when it comes to self-assessment. We want to be kind to ourselves and polite — no need to be rude. The external world has that covered. Learn ways of thinking the best of who you’d like to be and work towards that. The past is the past.

3. Patience is another factor we must practice.

One of my favorite self-written affirmations is, “I am self-paced.” We don’t have to rush to meet others’ expectations of us. Nor do we need to pressure ourselves off our own expectations. Slow is OK.

4. We all have good days and not-so-good days.

Perfection is not necessary. Be willing to feel what you feel minus the guilt of not being perfect.

5. Learning to love ourselves is a lifetime journey.

Remember, we are worth the effort. We can be the best version of ourselves and be the truest version of ourselves. Both are pretty awesome!

No matter what others may think of you — they may think you’re lazy, useless, not pretty, overweight, underweight, “stupid,” smart, beautiful, worthy, and kind — it’s what we believe and how we think of ourselves is that truly matters. You matter. Think the best of yourself first and know that we all are a work in progress. You are not alone along your journey of self-discovery. 

We are Mighties, for goodness sake!

Image via contributor

Originally published: July 11, 2022
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