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How My Disease Helped Me Find My Self-Worth

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I have been shy my entire life. Not just shy, but excessively so. I am uncomfortable in most social situations that involve talking. Especially large groups. Ironically, I earned my degree in education and became quite good at presentations and trainings. But that’s not what this is about. This is about breaking out of my comfort zone, asking for help, and finding self-worth.

So why is asking for help out of my comfort zone? Well, a huge part of my shyness stems from the fact that I never had any self-confidence. There’s a lot of back story there but I’ll leave that for now. Basically, growing up, I never felt I was good enough. And if I wasn’t good enough, whatever that meant, then why would I ask anyone for help? Because in my mind, who would want to help someone like me?

I finished both high school and college feeling this way. I also fell in love and got married, still feeling this way deep inside. And then I got sick, which only served to further my feelings about my self worth. But, I had kids to raise so I did what I had to do. I was alone most of the time anyway. And when they went to school full time, I went to work helping children with developmental disabilities. And I loved it!

But my disease had other ideas and I became progressively worse. Medicines made me gain weight. My disease attacked my lungs, making it hard to breathe during flare-ups. Joint pain made it hard to walk, and reduced bone density eventually caused compression fractures in my back. To say depression is common in people like me is an understatement and I did have it, especially when I had to give up my job.

My story could’ve ended there. Many peoples’ do. But I wasn’t happy. My kids were grown and working, my husband was working, and I wasn’t. I was at home without a car and in pain. I could either continue to sit there cleaning when I could and watching way too much TV, or I could figure out how to change and make things better. And for someone who spent their life thinking they were not good enough, choosing the latter was the hardest thing I ever did! But it is what I chose, and in a way that required me not only to ask for help, but to ask strangers!

I contacted someone from high school who had become a personal trainer and told him my story and asked if he would take me on. He did. I put out a post on my neighborhood community bulletin asking if people who lived near me would be willing to walk with me as I am still afraid of walking alone. I got six responses. And I put myself out there and took over menu planning and cooking. I can’t shop for a week’s worth of food, I can’t be on my feet that long. And I can’t cook complicated meals for the same reason, but the meals are now all homemade and healthy again. And shopping two to three times a week is exercise.

I may not be able to stop my disease progress or end my pain. But I feel like I can be an agent of change in my own life now. That gives me a confidence I’ve never felt. And the fact that all these people are willing to help me when they don’t even know me makes me feel worth something. I know I won’t be able to work again but that doesn’t mean I can’t build a meaningful life. It will just be a different one.

I guess you’re never too old to find your self-worth after all…

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Originally published: January 30, 2017
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