One thing that I have wanted to write about for a while now is pride. When you are living with a chronic illness, taking pride in yourself is something that is imperative to our emotional well-being. Many people think of pride as something to have when you perform an impressive feat, and while an overabundance of pride usually comes from doing that, we have to learn to be proud of ourselves, and proud of our everyday accomplishments. We as a society often already take pride in plenty of other things, like their country, their families, and their careers. We don’t always think about taking pride in ourselves, as we usually feel proud of others, like our families or our friends, but what we really need to learn is how to be proud of ourselves.
Living with chronic pain can take so much away from us. Every person’s situation is totally different. Some of us have lost our jobs, our abilities to perform everyday tasks, we’ve become impaired cognitively, and in some cases, others have even lost touch with friends and family due to their illnesses. Chronic illness and pain seems to slowly tear away the very fabric of our beings. It eats away at our self-esteem, making us feel as though we are worthless because of the pain that we suffer with.
But, we don’t have to keep following that same pattern. While it is true that our chronic pain has taken away our abilities to perform certain tasks, it doesn’t have to break our spirits. We can, essentially, start sewing that fabric back together, stitch by stitch, little by little.
Take, for example, the task of getting ourselves dressed in the morning. Most people would see this as a menial and necessary task that needs to be done each and every day when you wake up. People who do not live with chronic pain every day aren’t able to understand that for us, sometimes even getting dressed could prove impossible.
Finally dressed...now to face the day.
We struggle to perform the tasks that we once used to do with ease. Things that we used to take for granted, now seem out of our reach. Hell, for me, there are some things that I will only do if I am feeling halfway okay. It has come down to allotting my “spoons,” if you will. (That’s a reference to The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino!) I have to account for certain things that need to be done everyday, and I have to essentially take the energy needed to do those tasks out of my “battery bank,” as I like to call it. When you have a chronic illness, depending on the day, you only do get a certain amount of energy, and you have to prioritize and figure out what you want to use that energy on.
That is why when we are able to perform tasks that we may have thought would have been extra difficult or even impossible for that day, we need to give ourselves a little pat on the back. We have to be proud of ourselves. You know, I am going to be completely honest here when I say that I basically live in my pajamas. I’ll change into a different pair every day, but those are without a doubt the most comfortable clothes that I can wear without putting myself into more pain.
There is a funny saying that goes around the chronic illness community, "It is more fun to find cute pajamas than it is real clothes!" It's true though. I can’t wear the tight jeans that I used to wear in high school, the jackets that are heavy on my shoulders, it’s just not a feasible option for me anymore. So especially after I had Syrus, I told myself that I would much rather be comfortable than put myself in more pain for the sake of fashion. Dude, don't get me wrong here, if I have to go out, I will put on a pair of pants, a tee shirt and a jacket and go out. But I could never be one for "fashion," as much as I wanted to be.
Usually, I am home most of the time, so the pajamas aren’t really that big of a deal. But there have been times that I have ran out to the grocery store looking like I just rolled out of bed. I used to feel awful about that, I used to wonder what people thought of me when they looked at me. But after a while, I realized that I had to take care of myself, and if that means sometimes going out with semi-brushed hair and a pair of black pajamas that don't necessarily look like pajamas, then so be it. I realized I'm not here to impress anybody. My husband loves me and my family loves me just the way that I am.
Mission Accomplished: Got Dressed Today!
But then there are days that I do feel semi-decent enough to get “dressed.” When I feel like that, I will put on a pair of jeans (not tight, of course, thank you Endometriosis), one of my favorite tee shirts and my favorite pair of shoes. Sometimes, I’ll even spring and put make-up on and throw on a pair of earrings. That's the funny thing to me, I love to make jewelry, but very rarely wear it. I look in the mirror and appraise my reflection. A lot of people wouldn’t think getting dressed would be much of an accomplishment, if any. But for me, it is something huge.
So next time, when you are able to manage a task that you may have thought was impossible for that day, sit down and give yourself a pat on the back. You’re awesome, no matter what anyone else thinks. I believe that, and you should too.