Unlisted: The Flaw of a Chronic Illness

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Last week I contemplated the idea of “what makes a flaw, a flaw?” I ignored the obvious, which is a chronic illness, for a reason. Chronic illness is so all-encompassing that it deserved its own blog post.

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment: illness is a flaw. Flaws mean that we imperfect and if it’s a chronic illness, it means we’ll never be “perfect,” or “healthy.” Depending on our life goals, we may never achieve them because our illness prevents us. We cannot control the illness while it controls us.

Often, immediately after my diagnosis, I thought about how I might never be able to be a mother or the level of the burden I would cause Ash. How long would I be able to work professionally, if at all?

How much did my chronic illness “flaw” mess up my life?

Imperfect Being

We are not perfect.

Never were, never will be. So you have to get that out of your head.

I’ve mentioned it multiple times on my blog before: with or without an illness, we will never achieve perfection. So focusing our emotional energy on the imperfection of a chronic illness is a waste of time. Grieve your loss, absolutely, but do not let it consume you.

I’m never going to be an Olympic athlete, and I never wanted to be one prior to my diagnosis. So I have to ask myself in those moments: how much is this personal frustration stemming from the choice being taken from me and how much did I actually want it?

When you focus on how your chronic illness is a personal flaw, it only serves as a means to distract you from making meaningful changes. You can’t change the illness itself, so refocus on what you can change in your life. Rather than spending time thinking about what you might have “lost,” focus on how you can manage your illness in a healthy way. Focus on spending quality time with those you love and appreciating the moment. Focus on what you do have, or what perspective you’ve gained from the illness.

Again, I am not saying don’t grieve that choices were taken from you. I am saying try to bring yourself some perspective over the situation. It’s the age-old sayings of “don’t cry over spilled milk,” or “make lemonade when life brings you lemons.”

Recognizing the “Flaw”

Now, is an illness a flaw? Sure, it is a mar on who we are as a person. It does prevent us from doing what we want to do in our lives to a certain extent (and for some – a lot), but is it something that we should look at as making us incomplete or broken?

I think the answer should be “no.”

We have no control over life, and we have no control over our illness. Viewing our illnesses as a flaw only serves to bring our perspective down and distract us from what really matters: living, managing, and achieving our goals. When we view it as an insurmountable roadblock, we don’t find ways to move around it or adapt.

Another way to look at it: if it is something you cannot control and it’s going to do what it’s going to do, is it really a flaw? For some, they take the perspective of “if I weren’t able to handle this, it would not have been placed in front of me.” Viewing it from this perspective embraces our inner strength.

Humans are so resilient. They come out of situations scarred and battered, but often we are able to overcome those scars to be stronger. It would be nice to have a charmed life where nothing bad ever happens to us, but after the moments of darkness would we have the same deep appreciation for the light?

What can we Control?

I’ve talked about control before on the blog. I am a person who loves control in my life. If I can control something, I know what to expect. When I cannot control something, then I get stressed out.

You cannot control a chronic illness.

We also cannot control the world around us, so controlling our illness is no different. We can manage our illness, slow it’s progression sometimes, even bring it to a near halt, but it will always be lurking in the background.

What we can control in these moments is our attitude and accepting the illness as part of us. The illness does not need to define us, but it is something we carry around with us, as our arms or legs. We can be mindful of the moments we have and radically accept that our life is like this until medicine can cure us.

I know this is small comfort, and I am not saying “get over it” in any way. What I am saying is recognize, assess, and accept what you can in your own life so you can appreciate what you do have.

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Featured Photo Credit: Emma Simpson on Unsplash

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