Pain, fatigue, and mood swings can make our lives unbelievably stressful. But sometimes we make our difficult lives even harder. I realized this last night when I was discussing some health problems with my doctor friend Jonathan. On Sunday, I went to a church picnic and an outdoor party for a friend who’s visiting from overseas. I got a bunch of mosquito bites. I thought they would go away but yesterday, I realized they were multiplying. As someone with a neuromuscular autoimmune disease (myasthenia gravis, MG) and psoriasis, I’m a little scared. I told Jonathan, “I feel stupid.”
He said, “Why should you feel stupid?”
“I should have known better than to go on a picnic.”
Jonathan responded, “You can’t stay inside all the time.”
I had an epiphany: If a friend came to me with the same problem, I’d want to help. I wouldn’t tell her, “You’re an idiot. What on earth possessed you to attend a picnic?!? Having five diseases can’t be that bad.” And yet it was hard for me to extend compassion to myself, which brings me to my first self-sabotaging attitude.
5 Destructive Attitudes to Avoid:
- Being Harder on Ourselves Than We Are on Others—At the beginning of college, I was hard on myself during depression (from my bipolar 2)and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) episodes. Over time, I learned to not judge myself. Recently, however, I realize that I’m sometimes embarrassed about things beyond my control that are related to myasthenia gravis. For example, I feel self-conscious when I’m at restaurants and I spill or drop things. When I was out with two friends who have muscular dystrophy and I dropped my steak, I realized that I would never want them or anyone else to feel ashamed because of a disability. (Similarly, women tend to judge ourselves more harshly than we judge friends when it comes to body image.)
- Viewing the Past with Rose-Colored Glasses—I used to catch myself idealizing my “Pre-MG” life. Life is far more complicated now—there’s no denying that! But looking back, difficult coworkers, noisy neighbors, and cloudy skies existed before MG.
- Rejecting Every New Idea—Years of illness make it easy to become jaded. Four years into MG, an old friend, Frank, suggested I try Reliv, a nutritional supplement. I rejected the idea initially but eventually relented out of desperation; I needed a change. Because of Reliv, my asthma dramatically improved and I no longer have sleep apnea. Had I not tried Reliv, I would still be sleeping at a 90° angle every night with a CPAP machine just so I could breathe. I had to do that for five years! If I didn’t give Reliv a try, I would not be able to share this nutritional supplement with other people who have diseases like muscular dystrophy, ALS, or lupus. (I am now a distributor.)
- Believing It’s “All or Nothing”—Whether it’s mental illness or physical pain and fatigue, doing things like cleaning or exercising can be difficult. I used to think it was useless to exercise if I couldn’t do thirty minutes. Then, my therapist pointed out that (if I could do 15 minutes), fifteen minutes was better than nothing. Getting away from black-and-white thinking has been liberating. If you’re bedridden and the only thing you do all day is take a shower, remember that you’re trying your best.
- Never Saying No—As I previously blogged about in Slowing Down is Surviving; Not Giving Up, I’ve learned to take life at a slower pace. Most people don’t know what 24/7 pain and fatigue are like. I realized I had to tell people when I was too tired to do something otherwise they wouldn’t know. At my old church, for instance, for years I emceed and organized the games for all the holiday parties and showers. After I got MG, people still asked me to do those things. Before one occasion (a bridal shower), I finally said I couldn’t do it. Other people ran the event. And the earth kept spinning.
–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno
Like Fashionably ill on Facebook
Meet other warriors! “Like” us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fashionablyill.