The Mighty Logo

When I Became Ill, I Learned the Importance of Being 'Selfish'

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

If you do a simple internet search for the word selfish, it is defined as lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure. This definition haunts me some days. Having a chronic illness can make me feel like I make life 99 percent about me most days and one percent about the other people in my life. This is exhausting.

In time, I have learned to use my words and speak up for myself, but in doing so I have taken the spotlight. Is this being selfish? When you are fighting for your life every waking moment, how can you make time to include others? Those down moments when you are not in pain, dealing with doctors, medical bills or all of the other things that come along with being chronically ill are used to catch your own breathe. Those moments are used to clear your mind. Those moments are for you. So what about everyone else?

Something I learned in the beginning of treatment with Lyme was that the most selfless thing you can do is be selfish. When someone said that to me, I was really relieved to hear all of the focus I was putting towards my health and healing was validated. I was happy to hear that I was not being selfish setting my whole life aside. I was eager to find a balance between treating and having relationships. As much as I thought that pushing myself to attend a wedding, to respond to a text or to push my health to make other people happy was the right thing to do, in realty, it was hindering my progress. I have learned the more I set obligations aside and let life flow to me, the more I heal. Those who care about me want me to get better, so they need to understand that treatment is like my full-time job. In order for me to heal, at times I must set everything aside and be selfish.

The beauty in realizing this was that it filtered out what I need in life and the people who stand by me as I go through what is the most difficult thing I will ever go through. I learned the true meaning to the term “fair-weather friends” and found a solid group of others who support me no matter what I go through. I set foundations, I formed boundaries and I began to build a solid life foundation for when I am healed and can keep building towards bigger and better things. This process of letting go shook that foundation, it made me question myself deeply, but it is one of the best things I have ever done. There were times when I would visualize myself tightly holding onto a balloon filled with all of the things I was scare to let go of. I would fill it up with my fears, judgments and thing that made me feel obligated then I would let it go. I would visualize myself watching it get smaller and smaller as it floated away. This always left me feeling lighter and with an ease of mind. It is OK to let go. It is OK to focus on yourself.

Being selfish can be a sense of selflessness, or if taken to far, can actually become the textbook definition of selfish. The point I have learned, like with everything else in life, is finding balance. Make yourself the priority, but also take time for others. Personally, I try to do what I feel is right in my heart. Being in a solid relationship with chronic Lyme can be difficult and at times that balance is more weighted on my needs. When I see my disease starting to wear away on the others I surround myself with, I try to step back, take a breathe and reset my thoughts and words. This can be hard and sometimes it is too late to recover a conversation, but I try to redirect and take the spotlight off of myself. We all have needs, we all can be both selfless and selfish, but if we find the balance between the two, it can make life a much happier experience.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock Image By: jacoblund

Originally published: June 21, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home