I’m Sick, and that’s Okay.

Have you ever felt guilt for all the times people have had to make adjustments to things just so you could join them on a day out? Maybe sometimes you’ve even declined, because you can’t bear the thought of inconveniencing others. After all, needing a constant, particular level of care must be frustrating to others, you might even think. Today, we prepared a little infographic that we hope cheers you up: here’s how you’re still valuable no matter how you feel. Do read on for a story and even more details below.

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The emotional burden of living with and through a chronic illness is more than what many people can perceive. It’s also probably more than you’ll admit to carrying. There’s a lot of frustration, guilt, and a sense of not being good enough. We might be so used to beating ourselves up that we don’t even realize when we’re chastising ourselves, often for things that are objectively quite trivial. One common source of the guilt is believing that we should be able to do certain things, and “if not for the illness or condition” we “wouldn’t be such burdens”. 

If you remember, I have bipolar disorder and my medication used to give me shaky hands. Since then, I’ve changed my lineup of pills and capsules and the shakes are a lot less… invasive. But it doesn’t mean that I still don’t remember when I couldn’t do a straight line on a piece of paper. It took a long time for me to understand it, and on my bad days, I still carry a lot of guilt: I’m a bad friend, I don’t do enough, I’m 30 and I haven’t achieved anything, I’m a failure… these are incredibly pervasive thoughts and I’m so used to having them that I can’t always catch myself thinking about them and stopping. Suicide is a daily challenge for me, too. It’s a fight that never stops.

So if you have thoughts like mine, I hope this helps. I sat down and thought about the things that help me keep on living well, in spite of everything.

  1. You have empathy. Lots of it. 
    1. People often wonder how you’re able to understand them. You may not have been in their specific pair of shoes, but you’re well-versed with what it means to struggle. They always seem to feel better after talking to you: either comforted, or determined to head in a new direction. If it doesn’t get you down, then they won’t go down without a fight either.
  2. You can take a lot more stress than you think you can.
    1. We spend our days trying to get ourselves to a base level of functionality, and then trying to move past that. A couple of regular stressful situations won’t faze us one bit. We’re probably the ones helping you remain calm!
  3. You’re really creative.
    1. Having peculiar problems means solving them in peculiar ways. People may not understand how you came to a particular conclusion, but it sure works! What works for you may not necessarily need to be widely-accepted. My medication gives me insomnia, now. So I take my medications considerably earlier in the day, and work harder at nights to tire myself out. 
  4. You know your boundaries.
    1. Sometimes you feel guilty saying no to people, whether they’re asking you for a favour or even just to hang out. However, you know if you do, you’ll pay the price for it afterwards. This extends to emotional effort too: if you’re being taken for granted, or if someone is really testing you, you politely but firmly let them know. And they appreciate you for it anyway.
  5. You appreciate the small things. 
    1. The small things are what make our days great, and you know how to enjoy and be grateful for these little blessings. From someone at the coffee shop getting your coffee just right, to the warm sun on a bus ride, to your knees not hurting so much today, each moment makes you smile.

Our lives don’t have to be miserable and always a struggle just because we have a chronic illness. Whether we want it or not, it’s something we have to live with. It’s precisely because we have these that we have some really unique qualities that make us incredibly loved and valued by others. While fighting that guilt of being burdensome is something that may take a toll on us even on our best days, remember that people are here for you because they want to be, and because you’re important.