This might seem obvious to some, but I know I very often forget this: Fibromyalgia, or [insert your Chronic Illness here], and all its related traits, behaviours and flaws, is not your fault.
I didn’t come to this conclusion by myself. Most days I hate my inability to focus, my lack of energy, or my seemingly narrow capacity for dealing with people. I kick myself while I am down because I can’t do enough volume of work or because I can’t do enough around the house. I feel bad because conversing with people is hard and I’m often spaced out because of the pain of Fibromyalgia or because of the drugs which are supposed to take the some of the pain away.
But at the end of it – the reality is that I am judging who I am by what I do. And I would be the first person to scould you for doing that to yourself. Hypocritical I know, shall I add that to my list of shortcomings? Best not.
“It’s Not Your Fault”
There’s a now famous scene in the movie Good Will Hunting. Will Hunting has been forced to speak with a counsellor to try and sort his anger issues. Skeptical at first, eventually their sessions fall to a pensive silence. The Counsellor, played by Robin Williams, finally gets breakthrough when he repeatedly tells Will that “it’s not your fault”.
Bring It Home To Yourself
So it was on the way back home from work one day this week, my other half was driving (as is normal now – I’m too tired before and after work to drive safely). I can’t remember the specifics of the conversation, but I think I was ranting about how frustrating this Fibro thing was, how incapable I am, and apologising for something or other. Her response almost mirrored the “It’s not your fault thing”.
When you’ve dealt with a chronic illness for so long it can be really hard to disassociate what your health condition enforces from who you are. I blame myself for not hitting targets, or for not cleaning the house enough. I can feel that my worth as a person in business, as a member of my church or as a husband depends on what I can do, make or achieve. In reality, my identity is deeper and more complex than that. If you measure your life in achievements, when the power to achieve is removed from you, you have nothing left. You have to find more self-worth, more reasons to be content, more value in yourself outside of productivity.
If that means you have to sit in front of a mirror and reminding yourself that it’s not your fault and you are of eternal value, over-and-over-and-over again until it finally hits home, then that’s what you have to do.
None of us voted for this. Very few would choose a life of constant (and often worsening) pain, depleted energy stores, isolationist and lethargic. If you have a chronic illness, you have to play the cards you are dealt. But you must, absolutely, find something better to measure yourself against. What you do just will not suffice.
You are far more valuable, far more complex and far more amazing than you realise. It’s not your fault you have your illness. It’s time we saw ourselves differently, and spoke positive words of truth to ourselves.
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