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5 Things I Do When I Start Feeling Sorry for Myself and My Illness

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Being chronically ill can really take a toll emotionally some days. I can no longer do a lot of the things I used to go out and enjoy doing. Many people don’t understand what I’m going through. Sometimes this creates a very lonely existence where all I want to do is crawl into a hole and feel sorry for myself. These are my “bad days,” if you will. I can’t get rid of my illness, but I can get rid of the self-pity attitude. Here are some ways that I do that:

1. If it’s a particularly bad day, I take a break from social media. If I’m already feeling sorry for myself, then seeing pictures of my friends out living their lives only makes me feel inferior. I shut it down until I feel better and reason with myself that I’m glad my friends are doing well and can be out living their lives, in a different way than I’m living mine. It doesn’t mean I’m inferior in any way, I just have a different set of life circumstances that affect what I can and cannot do.

2. Sometimes I need to grieve. I’m not grieving the loss of a particular person. I’m grieving the loss of who I could have been if I wasn’t sick. I imagine this person in my mind — she’s pretty awesome, but I can never be her. Thus, I mourn her. A good old cry releases this grief a little bit. I’m not ashamed that it happens sometimes. Even though I am dealing with an incurable chronic illness, when I’m done crying, I realize my actual self is pretty awesome, too, and deals with some pretty hard things every day.

3. Like in “Grey’s Anatomy,” I have a person. This person understands that when I’m having a bad day I don’t want to hear about how it could be worse. This person just listens and tells me it’s going to be OK, which if I’m not currently dying, it will be. I suggest finding this person for yourself, whether it is a friend or a family member. They don’t have to understand what you are going through they just have to listen and validate your feelings. Find your Christina Yang to your Meredith Grey.

4. On bad days I tend to focus on my mortality a bit, too. It stinks, but most 20-something-year-olds don’t have to come to the reality that they are not immortal. With vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome I could literally drop at any point if my brain or heart decides to blow. I have a living will and advanced directive at 25 (not that I have many assets to give away). When I start thinking this way I try to focus on living. I throw myself into my school work or into my volunteer work. We are all on a clock, most people just don’t have to face theirs every time they have chest pain or a headache. I’m not dead yet and until I am I have to live the best life that I can.

5. Lastly, laughter really is the best medicine. When I am having a bad day finding something to laugh at is extremely helpful. For me this means watching anything with Chris Pratt in it — the man is a comedic genius (in my opinion). Also anything on YouTube that the cast of “Supernatural” has put out, especially the convention talks which are pretty funny. Find what makes you laugh and have it ready to go in your bookmarks or Netflix queue. Find the videos before you have a bad day, so they are ready to go when you need them. There is a clip of the “Supernatural” cast that never fails to put a smile on my face and it’s ready to go on my phone and computer, in case I need a little pick-me-up.

What most people don’t realize is that being chronically ill is very hard. We deal with hardships that hopefully a normal person will never have to experience in their lifetime. I think that it makes us stronger and more resilient people. It doesn’t mean for a second that being sick doesn’t take an emotional toll as well as a physical. The emotional toll is just harder for other people to see and pick up on. Hopefully, we can work together to help each other through the bad days.

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Originally published: November 2, 2016
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