Self-Compassion in Chronic Illness

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-hands-image11257665Today is 1000 Voices for Compassion, where bloggers, writers, artists, or anyone, have been asked to create something on the subject of compassion.  You will be able to see all the amazing content being released on the 1000 Voices blog or on twitter using the hashtag #1000Speaks.

The subject I have chosen to talk about is one that many people with chronic illness find difficult in some way, and that’s self-compassion.

Living with a disability can be really difficult for a whole myriad of reasons, but in truth, we are often the hardest on ourselves.

I frequently find there is a specific personality type amongst people living with painful and exhausting conditions.  It’s ironically the opposite of the image pushed by the media of lazy, feckless people who can’t be bothered to do a day’s work.  They are hard-working, creative people who push themselves to the limit. People who struggle to say no, to others, and to ourselves.

Saying no to myself is definitely something I struggle with personally, and so I have been working on trying to recognise the achievements I do make in a day, even if it’s something simple.  Such as taking a shower when I felt like death.  Or responding to an email.  Anything I was able to do, no matter how I felt.

A few months ago I was at an Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome support group, and this topic came up.  We were talking about achievements, and I shared my new mindset of trying to feel good about the little things, even if I only got a fraction of what I wanted to achieve done.

Then another lady spoke up and suggested I was looking at it in the wrong way.  That I was still putting that level of achievement on doing something. She said to turn it around and say:

‘My achievement today was doing nothing, because that is what my body needed.’

The days of being stuck in bed, or lying on a sofa are the hardest.  Every cell in my body is rallying against it – telling me I need to be doing something.  At my harshest I feel worthless if I’ve done nothing. But we have to listen to our bodies, and have to rest in order to function at other times. To continue to fight against it is to battle against ourselves and what we need physically. It just leads to more pain, and more fatigue – and more feelings of worthlessness as we putting the pressure on ourselves to perform.  No one else.

It was quite the lightbulb moment for me, and made me realise she was right, it was a much healthier way of looking at it.

It’s often easier to step back from the situation and think what you’d tell someone else in the same position. If your friend told you she’d had a terrible day health-wise, and they felt like a useless piece of crap because they’d spent the day in bed, would you agree with her?  Or would you empathise with their feelings, but point out they did the right thing by not fighting against how they felt, so they could rest up and hopefully have a better day soon.  And that some days (or a lot of days!) spent sleeping, or reading, or on Facebook is absolutely fine, and doesn’t negate their worth in society?

Self-compassion is a crucial aspect of living with daily pain.  I can think of so many people full of compassion for others who find it hard to turn it back on themselves.  We need to become our own advocate – both to others, and to ourselves.

compassion

How do you use compassion or self-compassion in your life?  All comments appreciated!

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8 Comments

  1. I really needed to hear this Jade. I push myself so hard until I am exhausted physically and mentally. It is so hard for me to just lay down and take it easy even though it is a detriment to my own health and body. Great post, thank you! I think I will go take a nap and relax for a while!
    Rena McDaniel recently posted…#1000Speak For CompassionMy Profile

    Reply
    • It’s something we really do all need to hear sometimes, or at all! I hope you’ve been able to have some rest.

      Reply
  2. What great advice that woman gave you! Sleeping, reading, and time on the internet are all good things–so count them as achievements.
    Kristi recently posted…Compassion: A Guiding PrincipleMy Profile

    Reply
    • It really was good advice! Something we all need to hear, definitely.

      Reply
  3. Be kind to yourself, our new normal requires us to see out current achievements in equal terms as our historic capabilities. We never asked for this lifestyle or imposed change, simple objectives now need disproportionate effort, living in the duality of a new era our future is ahead of us, so appreciate all those who are attempting to help support or encourage you. Give time plus understanding to leaning new things, applaud your own effort help others in a similar situation where possible.

    Take care John.

    Reply
    • Very true! No matter how long it’s been, it’s hard to fully embrace a new reality. It’s something we all need to work on I think.

      Reply
  4. In today’s world..we are so outer focused (regardless of able or disable). We are quick to beat ourselves down. Real life lesson for me, and my little girl who has Autism (chronic mental illness)…Need to celebrate us more often :) Thank you!!!

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment! We are, and do need to find new ways to celebrate achievements – and what those achievements are.

      Reply

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