Loving Our Imperfect Selves
image from lisamhloyi.wordpress.com
I read a blog where the person was saying they hated to hear people say that chronically ill people should not let their illnesses define them. And a few agreed with the person’s rant. As the person talked about how, when they were healthy, they prided themselves on being fit and exercising, on looking pretty, on being smart and talented and how they hated how they were now. They said that they hated they were sick. And the person went on to say that everyone should be able to know that they were chronically ill and know that they were chronically tired and could not do things anymore. It was almost like they wanted to put a name tag that said their name and then in bold letters stated “CHRONICALLY ILL”.
The person in this blog that I randomly ran across on another blogging site was defining herself and judging herself by what she used to be and so she felt that now she was inferior. And all I could think was “Is that all you think you are worth?” Do you think the only things that make you worthy are your looks, your muscles and being able to jog, your hair, your work ability, etc. And she and about five other people truly resented anyone saying that we should not let ourselves be defined by our illnesses. I personally believe that we have to learn to love our imperfect selves.
Boy, they would hate me because I do believe that we are more than our illnesses. I am Deb….What I am is disabled and chronically ill but who I am is what I choose to be inside. My name is not disabled. It is not chronically ill. It is not COPD, Fibromyalgia, Neuropathy, Sarcoidosis, Seizure Disorder, Hypertensive Heart Disease, Blood Clotting Disorder, Cystic Lung Disease, Kidney Disease, GERD, IBS, Degenerative Disc Disease or Joint disease, Spinal Stenosis, Osteoporosis, Osteopenia, Osteoarthritis, Chronic Fatigue, Autoimmune disorder, pernicious anemia, Lipidemia, Thyroid Disease, or any of the other things I have wrong. My name is Deb and yes, I am disabled and I am chronically ill with all those things wrong and many more but they are what is wrong with me and not the person I am.
Sometimes I think people who are chronically ill can let themselves become cloaked with their illnesses and almost wear them like a badge. And that is a cloak that can get very heavy after a while as they keep attaching more and more importance to what is wrong instead of what is right. Perhaps this is why I have survived as well as I have because I do not focus on all that is wrong. As I have said before, I leave dying up to God and I focus on living. I focus on the good in each day. I live, even with the really bad days, with hope in my heart that the next hour or day will be better. I refuse to let what is wrong consume me and keep me from living life. Remember victims focus on all that is wrong. Survivors focus on solutions.
I have learned through my older than dirt years that some people can allow their illness(es) to take their lives from them and there is no room for anything else. While I may read about new approaches to the things wrong with me, I would venture to guess that I spend less than two hours or less in a day concentrating on what is wrong with me and that includes such things as taking meds, breathing treatments, etc. If I cloaked myself with a badge of Chronically Ill, I would be spending every minute of every day tied up in illness.
My days are filled with writing, family, talking to friends,photography, dreaming and remembering wonderful things, laughter, my sons and granddaughter and most of all love. And most of my day is spent on this hospital bed in one room. And yet, when asked, I can honestly tell people that my life is very full and very happy in spite of all theses things. Yes, I have days and sometimes weeks where I am having to make trip after trip to the doctors or hospital but I still rely on my ability to distract myself from the medical like taking photographs as we ride up or in the hospital. I have learned to love my imperfect self and learned that just because life has changed and become different for me, that different is not necessarily bad.
And I think the difference is that I believe that what makes me Deb is more than my ability to walk which I lost, more than my ability to work which I have not been able to do in over twenty years, more than my ability to keep physically in shape which is a dream long gone, more than my ability to go out and visit people which is impossible for me now, or more than how pretty I look or how much I can dress up or any of the things I lost when I became so ill. If that is all that makes me worth while, then I must be worth a big fat zero right now. And I do not think so.
I refuse to give up or give in. I smile a lot and have had doctors say “Wow, you do not look like you are hurting that bad because you are smiling.” And I tell them that it is a choice. And then later, they will ask me how I stood so much pain because of what was wrong like the severe stenosis from head to tail, the neuropathy, the torn rotator cuff, the collar-bone out-of-place and ribs out-of-place, etc from falling. I choose to smile and be happy. It did not take my pain specialist long to learn just how severe my pain was and that it was debilitating and I did not have to tell him. I did not have to act like I was miserable and dying of pain. He could see it in how I handled my pain and it makes me feel really good that he admires my attitude and my determination.
I can not go places to visit people or do things outside like my flowers and so I had to learn a new way. Now, friends, even those chronically ill but still able to get out and do things, take me with them via camera. A dear friend in the UK took me to the beach there and walked me..by camera..into the water. That was such a wonderful thing. She shares photos of all her travels with me.
Another dear friend takes me places by camera as she traveled. She also takes me to the beach and walks out into the water so that I can hear it and see it and feel it in my heart. And boy does that make me smile. I can not go visiting and so I visit by Skype and it is like having them in the room with me. I have my red high heels and my leopard cape and I can feel quite classy and entertain here from this bed and be happy.
A friend in Italy and I were talking about this one other day how some people let their illnesses consume them and then some are like I am and have accepted what is wrong and find new ways to find the joy in living.. Those closest to me know that the more I joke, the harder I am fighting. It is my MOJO and my way of living with chronic illness. My value does not lie in what I can not do or how I look. It lies in what is in my heart and my head and in my actions. The diseases do not make us who we are rather it is what we do with the illnesses that make us worthy. If your choices are not working and you are miserable, then make different choices. That is the right we all have.
Someone told me once that I made being chronically ill look easy because I seemed happy. I told them to not be fooled into believing that it was easy. If a person starts having limitations or illnesses and finds themselves miserable but are still able to go out, to be about and around in their house, and while limited…can still function in life and take care of themselves but are miserable because of those limitations that they have now, they would be dying in misery if they were as sick as I am.
When you get this ill, you lose control of your life to others who come in to help you. Your privacy is invaded by helpers who help you bathe or wash your hair or help you dress or fix your food or fix your meds. It is my choices that makes it look easy. My choices to choose happiness over bitterness and sadness about my illnesses and the things I have lost.
And I have had some tell me how bad life is and they just can not find a way to be happy and feel worthwhile. They tell me that they just sit there in their misery and I ask them “How is that working for you? Evidently it is not working too well if you are sitting there in misery. If you do not like the choices you are making, make new choices.”
We are all victims when chronic illness hits but we do not have to stay victims. We can choose to become survivors (and even thrivers) in that we survive emotionally. No matter how much chronic illness takes from us physically, it does not have to rob us of our joy and happiness in life. It does not have to rob from us emotionally. See, I view life through the end of the binoculars that makes everything look big and beautiful. Some view it through the end that makes the world look small and bleak. Just change ends.
We have to learn to love our imperfect selves because no one is perfect. And if we do not love ourselves, then how can we expect others to? The people you see that you resent because they are healthy and well, may not be as healthy and well emotionally as you think or may be struggling with financial crises that you know nothing about. No one is perfect. Love your imperfect self and make choices that bring you joy not misery.
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