By Liza Zoellick.
It’s not easy living with chronic illness. I speak from personal experience. You go through many stages as you process your chronic illness and new life. I think it is similar to the “Five Stages of Grief,” however, I think you can teeter-totter back and forth between stages, thinking you’ve accepted, only to find yourself angry again and then in denial. I think denial and self-doubt are a popular stage for us to find ourselves in and let me tell you why and how to get out of it.
The Descent into Doubt
Even four years into my illness, I still have issues with self-doubt. This is partly due to four factors.
1.) Because there has not been a plateau of symptoms, I tend to feel vaguely like a hypochondriac. In the beginning, I had friends who said It’s all in your head,” when I shared with them another mysterious symptom. I hate when new symptoms pop up because I feel like people, even family will judge me.
2.) Which leads me to: People I share my diagnoses with find it hard to believe I have so many issues while being so young. They will tell me: “Oh no sweetheart. Just drink lots of water. You will be fine. Bless your heart.”
3.) Some of my illnesses are “new” in terms of how much they have been studied and so it can be infuriating finding info and the info can vary between sites. 20 symptoms can pop up on one site, while on another there’s 50, which leaves you scratching your head and wondering if these are valid symptoms or if you are “developing” symptoms because of your reading. But probably the biggest reason I find myself sinking into self-doubt is:
4.) Not wanting to accept the loss of that old self. It really is a huge loss that no one understands. It is this refusal to accept the loss that is the impetus to self-doubt (for me). If you aren’t sick, you don’t have to mourn the loss of a part of yourself. And if you aren’t sick, when those symptoms pop up, all you can do is doubt how it is you feel. Trying to push it under a rug.
The Unintended Consequences of Self-Doubt:
And how you can free yourself of it.
Denying you are ill can have very real and very unpleasant consequences. When you deny that you’re sick you are placing yourself at greater risk for over-doing it. It doesn’t make sense, just to prove you are not sick to overdo things and then need a week in bed to recuperate.
It’s really like torturing yourself.
Who wants to be tortured?
Didn’t think so.
You are also placing yourself at risk for ignoring symptoms that may land you in the hospital. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You don’t have to be strong, because you are strong already, getting up everyday and doing the things that you do just to live your life. There is also the danger of not getting the best diagnosis you can, if you are denying your symptoms and not sharing it with your doctor or not seeing a doctor at all. It is not a weakness to go to the doctor and you may end up feeling somewhat better after seeing one so you can try possible meds or therapies for what ails you. If you already have a diagnosis and are not willing to share new symptoms you are doing yourself a disservice because new symptoms can indicate a new progression of the disease or something new altogether that might change the course of treatment. Do not delay. Do not feel like you are complaining. One of the ways in which we can free ourselves of this self-doubt is believing ourselves. Believe in yourself and accept your illness and embark on a new path in your life that involves my most favorite mantra: “Face it. Embrace it. Defy it. Conquer it.”
Once you face it, you’ve crossed the biggest hurdle.
Take each one after that and you will be surprised how much power it gives back to you that chronic illness takes away.
Liza is a chronic pain warrior from Houston who has been chronicling her journey through chronic pain and illness on her blog: http://lovekarmafood.com. She is a frequent and valued contributor to the National Pain Report.