There is a lack of control when it comes to a chronic illness. For many of us, that lack of control gets frustrating and lead us to take our frustrations out on ourselves and those closest to us. True, society doesn’t blame us for feeling frustrated, but I hate feeling like I am mad at everyone, the world, and myself. I had to figure out where to start with self-compassion to help feel better about myself.
I am not going to be discussing anything groundbreaking, but I do want to spend this post detailing ways you can start the process to love yourself in spite of your chronic illness. The person most in need of love is yourself and I want to give you permission to do so.
Chronic Frustration & Struggles
Chronic illnesses lead to feelings of frustration with self beyond the normal struggles people face daily. Some typical struggles may be:
- Figuring out what is wrong
- Knowing what’s wrong and not knowing/wanting to deal with it
- I know that this is an attack, but I really don’t want to go to through the doctor hassle to deal with it. Maybe it will calm down after a few days…
- Feeling singled out with symptoms
- Karen has the same illness as me and she seems to be doing better than me. That’s so unfair.
- Frustration over limitations brought on by the illness
- I took it easy yesterday so I could do a bunch of stuff today, but I still feel like I was hit by a semi-truck
This is just the tip of the iceberg for frustrations and struggles, but they are very real and impact how we live our lives. Our thoughts hold so much sway over how we act and interact with the world. When we listen to the frustrations and give into perceived limitations, it can impact how we manage our illness and possibly the degree the illness affects us.
We may direct our anger towards ourselves because we feel like we have no one else to blame. We may not want to take it out on loved ones because it’s not their fault. We also may not have anyone to talk to, despite having a possible support group, because chronic illness feels so isolating.
Feeling out of Control
All of this is to say, there’s a complete lack of control over what is going on when dealing with a chronic illness. You may have your illness so well-managed with medication, complementary therapies, and wellness-based living that you feel in complete control of your situation. But all it takes is one slip up, like a bit of unknown gluten slipping in your diet, or just life throwing an unplanned curveball for an attack to arise and make you feel completely out of control.
That’s the problem with chronic illnesses: there isn’t always a concrete reason for the attacks or symptoms. What minimally affects one person may be completely overwhelming for yourself. When I first received my diagnosis I couldn’t help but feel like the universe had it out for me and was so frustrated by the lack of control over my symptoms and disease.
What many of us want in our chronic illnesses is to control the uncontrollable.
An unproductive way to feel in control is to focus negativity inward. Some of us feel a lot of self-loathing and act on that in unhealthy ways, while others may just want to be down on themselves because it’s a “go-to” coping mechanism.
Where to Start with Self-Compassion
Some ways to begin incorporating more self-compassion in your life:
- Recognizing the moments when you are unnecessarily harsh on yourself. I know that these moments can happen at the most random times for myself, but are highest just before or in the middle of an MS exacerbation.
- Once those moments are identified, just start saying to yourself “it’s okay, I’m okay, I’m only human and that’s okay.” Come up with a silly, but the memorable mantra that works for you. Positive forms of humor may help shake you out of your feelings of frustration.
- Talk to yourself like you are soothing a small child. This isn’t a condescending practice, for many of us, there is an inner child needing special love and attention. If you never received guidance on how to speak with a hurt child, think about what you would want a grown-up to say to you when you were younger.
- Seriously consider looking into therapy for yourself. Sometimes the hurts run too deep that you need an objective third party to sit down and speak with you and provide positive guidance in your journey. Using therapy isn’t defeat, it’s using tools available to you. Ask if they promote self-compassion.
Beginning to see your Self-Worth
The first, and hardest, step you will need to take is acknowledging the following: I am worth loving myself. I am worth caring for myself. I am worth forgiving myself if I feel like I need to.
When you mentally accept that you are worthy of love, particularly your love, you begin a journey down a healing path. You will start to see things differently: relationships, perspective, life-management; all will shift into a more positive and healthy space.
You will get push back and that will be hard.
That’s why saying “I’m worthy” is the first step in the self-compassion journey. When it’s time to care for yourself because someone or something hurt you, you already know that you are worthy of that self-care. You can own your decisions as being what’s best for you, and curtail internal concerns that you are responsible for others.
I have found caring about what others think and how they respond to me puts me in an unhealthy mental space. Saying that I am worthy of positive interactions helped me phase out negative individuals with minimal guilt. The guilt is still there because that’s still ingrained, but I no longer back-track and allow the negativity back into my life.
Do you see your self-worth? What works for you to see it? Leave your thoughts and suggestions below.
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Featured photo credit: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash