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Adapting Self-Talk and Affirmations for Life With Chronic Illness

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“It’ll do.

It’s good enough.

You’re doing so well.

Good job.

Time to rest.

Not going to happen today.

Maybe tomorrow.

In my previous life, by which I mean life before chronic illness, I always had a whole range of “self-talk” language helping me achieve my goals. They were all positive, affirmative statements like:

You can do it.”

“You’ve got this.”

“Keep on going.”

“Don’t give up.

Fast forward to a life of disability and extreme pain, causing my life to resemble little of how it used to be, my self-talk vocabulary needed a major overhaul.

Dealing With Perfectionism

I’ve always been a perfectionist. Always wanting to ensure no matter what task was in front of me, I would give it my all. This trait has served me well in many areas of my life in the past, particularly in my career.

In the early days of being chronically ill, I was still relatively mobile. Yes, I had pain and fatigue but at worst I needed a walking stick, at best I could walk without aids. I could exercise on a treadmill or walk around the block holding my husband’s hand. I could still drive a car. I was on disease-modifying medication, but I wasn’t requiring stronger opiates.

Once my bone disease began to progress and my femur broke, life was never going to be easy for a perfectionist. Not if I wasn’t prepared to make changes to my thought processes.

Crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and power scooters are now my only mode of movement. Grab rails, raised toilet seats, lift chairs, highset chairs, scatter our home. I’ve worked hard to ensure my home still looks “normal,” and by normal I mean not like a nursing home. It’s important to me my environment is warm and welcoming.

My major disability hit me at 45, and at 55 I’m still young, in my mind anyway. The likelihood is I’ll end up in a nursing home in the future, so I don’t want to fast forward this looming reality by replicating the experience in the here and now.

So how can I reconcile my very real disability hurdles, with my personality trait of wanting everything I do to be the best it possibly can be?

Changing My SelfTalk Chat Lines

If I was ever going to accept my change in life circumstances, I needed to start with changing my self-talk affirmations. No longer could I talk to myself as if I could conquer all. I could and can conquer a lot, but definitely not everything.

No mind over matter, no cheerleading squads, no pushing through despite pain, is going to be sufficient to achieve goals like basic daily housework.

Should I just give up? No, it’s not in my DNA to give up, but it is in my DNA to find solutions. I might have to give up my perfectionism, but I can still hang on to my “problem-solving” passion.

It all starts with self-talk. Not the kind I used in the past, but a new kind. I’ve created new and appropriate self-talk chronic illness chat lines. I’m realistic about what I can and can’t achieve.

I used to be meticulous with how I liked my bed made daily. Our bed was neater and more stylized than you’d find at a 5-star resort. I still have a lovely-looking bed and my husband helps so much. We’ve come up with ways not to tuck the sheets in and use beautiful Manchester to cover the bed, as if all was perfect underneath.

The most important part of the process, though, is my new self-talk chronic illness affirmation:

It’ll do, it’s good enough.

Those simple words give me permission to let go of my perfectionism and to feel content with what I have achieved. They bring a smile to my face and remove unnecessary stress.

I’m certainly not endorsing giving up on life and goals because we have chronic illness and disability. I am endorsing being realistic and not using self-talk in a harmful way. To give messages to ourselves which create undue pressure, or even worse cause us to push through beyond our physical capabilities, is just irresponsible and dangerous. It also leaves us in a state of constant discontent as we find ourselves in a cycle of failures. You are not a failure. You are chronically ill and you have to approach life from a different angle — a disabled angle.

Once we do this, we can become more and more abled. We begin living within the realms of our possibilities and abilities. Life can be so much better.

Taking Charge

What are your current self-talk affirmations? Are they working for you? Are they a recording of messages you used to tell yourself in a bygone era?

It’s time to change! It’s time to create your new self-talk chronic illness affirmations. You’ll know the right messages for your situation.

Take time to write down the self-talk you currently use. Next to each statement, think about what would be a more appropriate message and write it down.

Become able-bodied in a disabled body by giving yourself the right messages. I believe you’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders.

Perfectionism really is overrated, don’t you think?

Getty image by Juergen Bauer Pictures.

Originally published: May 31, 2021
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