Chronic Illness & Self-Sabotage: 5 Attitudes to Avoid

canstockphoto13974252Pain, 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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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

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JessicaGimeno

Hi there! I am a patient advocate, writer, and public speaker most well known for my TEDx Talk, “How to Get Stuff Done When You Are Depressed.” As someone who is juggling 5 illnesses: bipolar 2, myasthenia gravis, endometriosis, psoriasis, and asthma, I’m passionate about helping people who navigate life with both chronic physical & emotional pain. If you’re interested in hiring me to speak at your event, check out the CONTACT tab.

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