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Holding On to Your Identity With Chronic Illness

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Chronic illness shows up whenever it wants to, as we all know; however, this week is such an important one as we have two major opportunities in our arena to advocate for ourselves and many others. This also leads into a marvelous coaching piece.

This week is Invisible Disability Week (a.k.a. Invisible Illness Week) as well as Right Care Action Week. If you’ve lived with chronic illness for any length of time, then you are fully aware of the stigmas that accompany them, albeit unfortunate and at times cruel. Depending upon your exposure to the world, people in general, peers, physicians, social media platforms, your own personality type, self awareness and/or whether or not it’s just “one of those days,” it can become all-consuming on multiple levels and quite difficult to keep from losing your own identity and sense of self. Often times people just get “caught up” and consumed with the many that they forget about the one – themselves. If we aren’t taking care of ourselves then who is?

Chronic illness isn’t “one size fits all.” It is extremely patient specific. What works for one may not work for another. What goes on in one person’s life with their diagnosis may not hold true to the next. This doesn’t make it a false statement – merely DNA and chemical makeup at work. Just like medication management and side effects or holistic approaches and how those may or may not benefit one person or the next. It would be simply marvelous if the same plan of care worked well for everyone wouldn’t it? Think of athletes and those who work out at the gym. No two workout routines and eating plans are the same. Each has their own sets and weights tailored to specific outcomes, lifestyles, heart rates, height and so forth. Rotation of plans and even dietary restrictions are constantly being adjusted.

Same goes for everyday life of a chronically ill warrior. We are continuously adjusting our daily plan of care. How do we feel when we arise? How many spoons do we truly have? What is our pain level? Are we nauseated today? Do we need to take a social media break or a medical holiday this week? The best thing we can do is to individually respect the journey – to love ourselves as we are. The healthiest path is to refrain from comparison, judging our journey against another. How can we provide an answer for another’s question? What have we learned that we can share? I find that when I share information there is always someone who either isn’t aware of a particular piece of what I am posting or has something to add to it.

do not become a stranger to yourself by blending in with everyone else

The core theme here is to remember who you are no matter what you see, hear or feel. You are a necessary instrument to our community and to the world around you whether you feel like it at times or not. Take the time you need to refresh and restore yourself emotionally, mentally, spiritually and do whatever you can physically (via nutrition, rest, antiemetics and so forth) and fill you back up whenever you feel you’re depleted. Find a support person or persons to assist. Only you know what is best for you and when. Setting realistic expectations for yourself and others takes the load off. Giving space for healthy boundaries and making sure those aren’t crossed ensures you keep your spoons. All of this can help you maintain your sense of self – your own identity. You keep your power, not any illness, not any person, place or thing. Is it always easy? No. Does it take reminding? It sure does. Can you do it? Absolutely!

The illness may be invisible; however, you most certainly are not!

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Thinkstock photo via soup__studio.

Originally published: October 21, 2017
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