You Are Not the Enemy:
Stop Beating Yourself Up for Your Illness
guest post by Kerry @ Chronically Zen
When I was first diagnosed, the battle lines were clear: it was me against Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease had wrecked my health and my plans for the future. It was not going to win.
But over time, something else also became clear. My Crohn’s disease, my health problems made things hard on other people. The first few years, my brother was my caregiver. He took me to the hospital, helped me recover from surgeries, and listened to me when I was terrified of what my future would be. All the time, he was covering up his own battle with OCD, which I didn’t learn about until years later.
My illness also inconvenienced my friends and my co-workers. I could mostly be relied upon, but they never knew when my Crohn’s (or an extraintestinal complication or drug side effect or infection) would sideline me. Plans had to be cancelled; project deadlines slipped. People had to do more to make up for what I couldn’t do.
So the battle lines blurred. Instead of being mad at Crohn’s disease, I was mad at myself. I was unreliable. I was letting people down. I was making life harder on my loved ones.
Sound familiar? So often, those of us with chronic illness forget who the enemy is. The enemy is our illness. We, unfortunately, are the warriors and the battleground.
When you slip and begin to beat yourself up, remember:
You are doing the best you can. Even if you follow every instruction from the doctor and take every treatment, you will still have bad days. Do your best on the good days, and give yourself a break on the bad.
The people who love you know this. Your loved ones want what is best for you. They want you to take care of yourself, and, if you can’t do that, they want to help.
You are not responsible for how other people feel. Are your friends disappointed when you have to cancel plans? Sure. Is your spouse stressed out because you have to quit your job? Absolutely. But this isn’t your fault. It’s the fault of the illness. (I struggle with this myself.)
That’s all that matters. Whispering co-workers? Staring strangers in the store? Even family members who are not compassionate and blame you for your illness? They don’t matter. You, the people who truly love and care for you, your medical team: this is who matters. Don’t let anyone else make you feel bad for what you cannot control.
Your health is a battle, every day, and the war is a long, hard slog. Don’t forget who the enemy is. And don’t forget the ultimate objective: a full life despite it all.
Kerry @ Chronically Zen
Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease over 20 years ago, Kerry has been through all the ups and downs of chronic illness. She lives in the South with her awesome hubby and her escape-artist puppy. She adores the Avett Brothers, coloring, and cooking competition shows. Currently, her favorite word is sanguine.