self-reflection-with-chronic-illness

Self-Reflection with a Chronic Illness

My self-reflection journey had two significant steps: step one, reflecting on life immediately after receiving my diagnosis; and step two, reflecting on life after Jai’s birth. You could say that I am in the middle of step three because self-reflection with a chronic illness is a lifelong exercise. I am a firm believer that self-reflection should be a lifelong practice regardless of your health. It keeps us moving forward and prevents becoming stagnant.

Today’s post is about the answers I came up with when I looked at my life just after my diagnosis up until now. Like with Monday’s post, I will end with some questions to ask about your current situation.

Post-Diagnosis; Pre-Health Minded

I have discussed this period of my life a few times on the blog.

After my diagnosis, I was in not in a healthy emotional place. I grieved the loss of my “old life,” such that it was. I tried to process the physical betrayal I felt, the uncertainty of my future, and why I felt like life just hated me. Despite that, or perhaps to help cope with it, I did self-reflect a little bit about my life and MS.

A thought I kept coming back to was my mortality and what that might look like. While MS is unique to everyone, the only example I had in my life was Annette Funicello. I swore that my health trajectory would take me to a place where I would be trapped in my body like her. I told those close to me that I was convinced my RRMS would progress to SPMS by the time I was forty, just eight years away at the time.

I was in a weird space of fighting the progression of my disease, but also just accepting what was happening. Part of my anger and self-loathing I had at the time led me to just want to give in and let MS kill me. But I also wanted to fight MS and get healthier. Torn between the two extremes I got stuck in a holding pattern for several years.

I did make an effort, if you could call it that, by speaking with my neurologist about disease management through healthy living, but I didn’t make any of the changes I told him I would. Thankfully, he was patient with me to wait until I was ready to get onto a drug regimen to manage my MS.

Once on Copaxone and later Tecfidera, I managed my flare-ups. Any exacerbations I got tended to be mild compared to the ones I got off medication. I was still super stressed, not exercising, not eating well, and not feeling good. The medication worked overtime.

2014. Hampstead Heath, London, UK. I was on Copaxone at the time, but unmotivated to take care of myself. I tried several months before to live “healthy” for a while, but failed to actually do anything.
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Reflecting on Life Before a Diagnosis

My MS diagnosis was one of the best things to happen to me. I hate admitting this because it means I needed a chronic illness to shake me out of complacency. I am one of those people that needs to be smacked in the face, hard, to get an important message. I know this because I’ve reflected a lot on my life prior to my diagnosis.

Hopefully, I learned the lesson to listen more closely to life before it needs to hit me with another big smack.

I think it’s important to acknowledge and honor our life before the diagnosis. It’s so hard to look back at that time: seeing how capable we were, what we could do, what we took for granted…

I wanted to highlight some of the thoughts I’ve had while I’ve self-reflected on my life before my MS diagnosis. Towards the end of the post, you’ll find some of the same questions I asked myself to get you started.

Unhealthy Before the Diagnosis

To say that I was unhealthy prior to my diagnosis is an understatement.

I was unhealthy in body, mind, and emotionally speaking. I will primarily focus on the negative aspects of my life in this section. As I mentioned last Wednesday, self-reflection takes us down paths we would instead not acknowledge. I have a lot of pain I carry around in my life, and I’ve found what I’ve done up to this point has not worked in effectively managing it. I noticed looking at the origins of the pain helps me begin the process of healing. I am able manage situations differently, in a mature manner, and manage my MS until I am ready to get back on medication.

I broke down each section of my life where I did significant self-reflection.

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difficulties-in-self-reflection

The Difficulties in Self-Reflection

A wellness journey is no different from a physical one: the path will get difficult, overgrown, washed out, detoured, and sometimes disappear. Through perseverance, we find the path again or overcome the difficulties encountered in the journey. Self-reflection functions as rocky terrain: it requires heavy emotional lifting that bogs you down and hinders forward movement. If you are training yourself to meet your personal goals, the resistence builds you up to tackles the next stage in your life’s journey.

It’s April, and you may have dropped any idea of completing your New Year’s Resolutions but know that you can still make those goals. The “New Year” is just a date, and it’s always a good time to get started on your life goals. For the sake of your own wellbeing, consider taking the next couple of weeks (in blog posts) to self-reflect even if you’ve decided to completely reject your goals.

What’s Ahead: the Difficulties in Self-Reflection

What should you expect in the next two weeks of posts?

I will be using the lens of self-reflection to review three parts of my life: pre-diagnosis, during the diagnosis process, and post-diagnosis. Within these posts, I will provide exercises for you to reflect on the same moments you encountered in your journey.

The goal will be to see where you were, where you are, and where you are going in your life as it is. Think of it as the famous Christmas story: we’ll be visiting three “ghosts” in our lives to see how we can change our current life’s trajectory.

The tough part is the level of honesty required. When self-reflecting, it’s easy to rationalize certain thoughts and behaviors rather than being honest.

I am not able to get a certain task done because I am too overwhelmed. My illness prevents me from achieving a professional goal. When I am in a better emotional place, I can finally learn that hobby I’m interested in.

The truth is this: you have to be honest about why you are not getting a task done and why you feel overwhelmed. Is it because you don’t actually want to get it done or completing the job makes you feel worse than avoiding it? Is your illness actually preventing you from achieving your professional goal or are you using it as an excuse to justify mediocre work?

I know that sounds harsh, but the truth we avoid is the one that holds us back from achieving our goals. With the next set of posts, I will ask you to be honest with yourself, so let us acknoledge the frustrating nature of self-reflection.

Remember Self-Compassion

Back in February, I discussed the importance of self-compassion. As you reflect, remember to be compassionate with yourself as you begin to uncover your truth.

A quick refresher: self-compassion is being kind to yourself in the same way you would be sympathetic to a friend or loved one. Imagine a friend approaches you with the same fears, concerns, and scenarios you are experiencing. What comfort or advice would you provide them? Take that same advice and apply it to yourself.

Remember to take it easy on yourself, be kind when you hit a roadblock, but find a healthy and workable detour.

Taking a Much Needed Break

While we will be moving forward with working towards our goals, be okay with needing to take a step back. If you need to take a break, there is nothing wrong with giving yourself the time. The process it took to get to your current state didn’t happen overnight, nor will the process to get out of it.

Engage with self-care, go out and do something for yourself. Take yourself out on a date. Honor what your mind and body tell you. Just remember to re-engage with the wellness process, even if you don’t want to. There’s a difference between taking a break and avoiding the issue altogether.

Self-reflection is like any sort of physical exercise. Sometimes you have to push a little harder when it hurts in order to achieve your desired results. Like with exercise, be sure to do it in a safe manner to prevent causing harm.

Consider Outside Help

Because I am not a medical professional, any advice I give in my posts may not fit you. Consider reaching to an outside source if you think your self-reflection will take you down a problematic emotional path. Sometimes the things we discover ourselves are upsetting, or memories/emotions come up that are too much to handle alone.

If you aren’t in therapy but think you need the outside help, consider finding someone. There are many options available, including reputable apps, so finding the right fit is easier no matter the location. While I haven’t tried one for myself, these are ideal if your chronic illness affects your mobility.

If you don’t think therapy will work for you, but you have someone in your life whom you can speak with, approach them to see if they would be willing to help as you self-reflect.

Asking for help is not a weakness, it’s recognizing the current life-load temporarily requires a helping hand. We are social creatures, so doubtless you will find someone who wants to help see you through this journey.

If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my weekly newsletter so you can get more information on this year’s wellness journey.


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Featured photo credit: Canva.com


self-reflection-personal-wellness

Self-Reflection & Personal Wellness

As discussed in Monday’s post, self-reflection is extremely important for the success of a personal wellness journey. It allows you to be honest with yourself and finding a way to achieve your goals. Today, we’ll focus more on the personal wellness aspect.

If you want to take anything away from today’s post, the key is to be honest with yourself and figure out who you are. What you want in life will follow as will most things.

Self-Reflection & Personal Wellness

Any goals that you set for yourself need to go through a level of introspection. Are these goals reasonable? Can I actually achieve them? What do I need to motivate myself? Will my chronic illness affect any changes I want to make in my life?

Let’s speak to the elephant in the room. Self-reflection does take us down a negative path, but it is necessary. We will confront negative thoughts and feelings about ourselves, and this will make us feel uncomfortable. When I decided to take better care of myself, I recognized in a moment of self-reflection that I would have to address the lifelong negative thoughts and emotions I dealt with daily.

To best address these aspects, I experienced several days of feeling emotionally uncomfortable until I settled on a healthful solution to deal with my thoughts and emotions. During this period, I may remove myself from specific social scenarios that would perpetuate what I wanted to fix or place mental boundaries to protect myself until I was ready.

Once I arrived at a solution after this self-reflection exercise, I always felt better about myself and my personal goals. My motivation shoots up and I act in a way that I am proud of myself. In the process of self-reflection, I get one step closer to my wellness goals and I learn more about who I really am.

The temporary moments of discomfort that comes from self-reflection are worth the life lesson you get learn about yourself.

Be Honest with Yourself

When setting goals, always be honest with yourself.

If you want to quit smoking, is your time-frame reasonable? You may be someone who needs to slowly cut back on your daily habit versus going cold turkey.

The only way to know that is to take the time to reflect and be honest with yourself. Have you found success in cold turkey? Or did you do better when you cut back one cigarette at a time?

No matter what your goal, self-reflection will give you the opportunity to understand yourself and how you differ from others. Because no two people are alike, your personal expectations must match that. You cannot expect your wellness goals to be complete in the same amount of time as a friend. You may be faster or you may be slower.

Looking towards your past behaviors, actions, and thoughts can clue you into what your wellness journey will look like. If you failed many times in the past, so this thought is discouraging, do not despair: look instead at those attempts as learning opportunitites. What didn’t work each time? What did?

This should sound familiar because self-reflection leads to be more self-compassionate with yourself.

This is the key takeaway each time you self-reflect: who are you and what are your personal needs? If you are honest in your reflection you will find more success in your life goals.

But Who Are You?

There is a temptation to reflect on who you want to be or your idealized self, but not be realistic about who you are now. This is where we run into problems with succeeding in our improvement journey.

I know I am rarely honest with myself when I have to track calories for weight loss. I cut corners and say I ate less than what I actually did and I might inflate my exercise times. Then I wonder why I haven’t lost weight. It’s because I wasn’t honest with myself or my goals.

I was focusing more on my idealized self, not my current self wanting to lose weight. I thought I was doing better than I was and used it as an opportunity to justify cheating on my regimen.

It’s key to be brutely honest with who you are right now. That may be a person with a weakness for cigarettes when stressed, needing the occasional sugar rush to boost energy, or quick to confront people when your anxiety levels are up. Deep down, you probably already know this about yourself, but were too afraid to reflect on it.

The discomfort you feel as you work through your personal honesty is temporary. You will make it to the other side of each exercise and you will find personal success in that honesty.

Those First Steps

The first steps are hard, but here are some places to get started (with or without a chronic illness):

  • Take a step back and look at your life as though you were a stranger (not even a friend). You want to have that “out of body experience” reflecting on your life. Who do you see?
  • Compare who you think you are versus the person you see when looking at yourself objectively. Where do you match and where do you differ? In that gap between the “two” people might contain a clue on becoming your ideal self.
  • What are some of the first thoughts you have about yourself? Are they positive or negative? What do you want your first thoughts to be?
  • Figure out how to make your idealized self match your actual self. If you have a chronic illness, be realistic about your idealized self. You waste precious emotional resources if you focus on a person you can never become due to your chronic illness. How close to your idealized personal goals can you get if you pushed your limits?

This is only the beginning for what we will do this month. In Friday’s newsletter, we focus on the importance of self-reflection with a chronic illness. If you have MS or another chronic illness, be sure to sign-up for the newsletter so you can get tips, tricks and jump into our wellness journey. By doing so, you won’t miss Friday’s post.


Like this post? Make sure to follow me on your favorite social media platform and show some love by sharing it. Links found below.

Featured photo credit: Nicollazzi Xiong from Pexels


Self-Compassion-book-review

Book Review: Self-Compassion

Almost a year ago I recognized I needed to change the relationship I had with myself.

I had a lot of negative emotions with no healthy outlet other than taking it out on myself. I searched online and through my subscription to Audible, I found several books to listen to while I was taking care of Jai.

That’s when I stumbled upon Dr. Kristen Neff’s book Self-Compassion. It was the first book I listened to it because the description spoke to me: finding a way to cope with the debilitating self-criticism I experienced every day. I listened to the book on my way to-and-from therapy, finding that it helped deepen each session.

Since first listening, or “reading” the book, I have found a marked difference in my demeanor and how I respond to negative feelings for myself and even for others. I’ve talked an awful lot about this book throughout my blog, so it was time that I sat down and actually reviewed the book.


What follows is my review of a book I chose on my own. I did not receive any compensation for this review.


Book Information

Title: Self-Compassion, The Prove Power of Being Kind to Yourself
Author: Kristen Neff, Ph.D
Date Published: 2011
Publisher: William Marrow
Pages: 305
Genre: Self-Help
Goodreads Links
Amazon Link (non-affiliate)
Official Book Website


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