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14 Ways to Remind Yourself You're Worthy as Someone With Chronic Illness

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Are you worthy or worthless?

I posted a graphic in a Facebook group I administer recently which stated, “A body that works less does not make you worth less.”

I had been feeling frustrated lately with the limitations my chronic illnesses present on a daily basis. In my mind, I plan  to take our new camper all over the country, camping day after day while biking and exploring new areas. The reality, however, is that I have been able to go on weekend getaways with my husband but naps are part of the equation. And each time we return home, I experience exaggerated symptoms and exhaustion.

Living with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), Sjögren’s syndrome, mitochondria myopathy and several other chronic illnesses challenges my ability to perform daily tasks. Adding a special event to a weekend, such as camping, is exciting but also creates additional obstacles.

The quote I shared on Facebook resonated with many people. Those with and without chronic illness commented how much they needed this reminder that we are indeed worthy. Sometimes our minds will challenge us. Perhaps, like me, you become frustrated when plans are canceled or not even made because our bodies don’t cooperate.

In the 10 years I’ve been dealing with chronic conditions, I have learned it is OK to feel unworthy at times. It happens, but we must challenge ourselves to crawl out of the bleakness and try to live the best life possible. How? Here are 14 suggestions to help us not just survive but thrive and feel worthy of a good life.

  1. When you find yourself experiencing negative self-talk, stop and sit quietly. Then challenge yourself to reframe your thinking.
  2. Deal with varied feelings. Writing, praying, biking and talking to a therapist or other trusted people helps me process emotions. What have you found helpful?
  3. Seek help in the form of a support group or counselor. Give it a try; perhaps you will find it helpful.
  4. Join an in-person or online support group. Make sure it is a reputable group and you are comfortable with how it operates. Dysautonomia International runs support groups in many states (I moderate the New York group).
  5. Find things you enjoy and do them. I love to bike, knowing I may have to stop halfway through the ride to put my feet up and rest. I always have to nap longer on biking days and cannot ride two consecutive days. I try really hard to just be thankful for the times I can strap on my helmet and go.
  6. Practice flexibility — and no, I don’t mean the flexibility that comes with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. I need to plan ahead when big events occur. When my son graduated from high school recently, I rested for days leading up to the event, hydrated more and made sure our seats at the local stadium were near an exit. I brought in extra salty drinks to stay hydrated. And despite my best efforts, I nearly missed the celebratory dinner due to exhaustion and stomach issues. I drank a lot of water at dinner and little else, but thankfully participated.
  7. Plan, but also realize that at some point the body will revolt. This is OK; our bodies are not perfect but we are still worthy. Practice the skills that help when you’re most symptomatic.
  8. Give yourself grace and love yourself despite challenges.
  9. Try to have fun.
  10. If you have a bad day (or week) get up the next day and try again. Remember that so many things can challenge us including weather changes, added stressors and activities.
  11. Say no when you need to. Be choosy in what you plan or commit to doing.
  12. Continue to socialize with those you love.
  13. Remember we are worthy despite bodies that challenge us each day.
  14. Laugh. Humor is a great coping skill.

Getty image by Mandryna.

Originally published: August 5, 2021
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