There are role models for almost anything and everything we want to do in life. Sporting role models, beauty role models, physical fitness role models and parenting role models. There are so many different role models everywhere. It’s hard to know who and what to be when we are growing up.
However life rarely goes to plan.
When I was growing up there were always people that I admired and tried to be more like in the hope that my life would become better and stronger if I were more like someone else. It seems human nature to try and be more than we are or the best versions of ourselves.
But what happens to those of us who become ill or have a life long health challenge? Are there role models for those times or are we no longer any use as role models for others?
Are we forever doomed to try to live up to a healthier persons standards? Not good enough as an ill person? Always lower than others?
I became confronted with the question of “What sort of chronically Ill person should I be?” Which one would let me loved, respected and accepted by the rest of the world?
Should I be one of those silent ones? The type that never talk about it and pretend my health hasn’t changed? Live in denial and feeling ashamed that I can’t be more than I am? Hiding away and never mentioning my pain or challenges? Not wanting to make healthier people feel uncomfortable around me or acknowledge my circumstances.
As my symptoms increased and my disabilities deepened I couldn’t hide it all anymore. That option seemed to be taken away from me.
Should I be one of those super positive chronically ill or disabled people that make fun of my short comings, joke about my struggles and be self deprecating and always jolly? The type you see making fun of their illness or diseases and trying to earn people’s respect and acceptance through always being funny and repeating positive quotes?
Should I be a chronically ill person that joins a Paralympic team or wheelchair racing? Should I try to find a skill or ability and attempt to excel at it like Stephen Hawking or Helen Keller? Should I try to make myself useful to others by using any strength or ability I have left to serve and be the helpful little chronic?
Should I silently disappear and allow the world to step over me and keep going? Never having to know or hear what it is like to live with such challenges or hurdles? … Going silently on my way.
There were a number of options and there are many different people who choose which one they are most comfortable with. Each person has their own path and choices.
I can remember when I first became extremely ill and diagnosed, I began reading about celebrities that shared similar diseases as me. We only ever see or hear from them when they are managing and at their most glamourus and red carpet ready. Whenever they aren’t well or coping who knows what happens? No one knew what the last years of life was like for those stars that eventually left the spotlight or died of their illnesses; is that what I should do? Is that the best picture that the world should have of me or other chronically ill people? I.e. That we are either glamorous or non existent?
I hoped to be a mixture of the type of chronic that looked good in a selfie, took pics when I was feeling my best, kept striving to better myself like Stephen Hawking and one that was always smiling and joking in public; but kept everything painful or difficult well hidden.
I really tried to be that person but I couldn’t.
Growing up I was taught by my family that illness and disability is weakness and must be ignored and hidden. Like a character flaw. But as I became older and wiser I rejected that logic. I had to go beyond that learning and evolve. Keep learning and questioning.
Today my body is weaker but my pride and spirit is more determined to be authentic. I have found strength in learning and experiencing.
I decided that the type of chronically ill person I want to be is just me. The person I feel most comfortable with. The real me. The one that is honest, loving, caring, hopeful, talented, respectful, intelligent, thoughtful, opinionated, loyal and worthy.
I believed that whoever accepted that person, warts and all, would be happy to be in my life and I would be happy to be in theirs. I just needed to accept me as I am. So That’s what I have been working towards.
Sometimes the best role models we can be is our own role models. Sometimes making a peace with ourselves is the best person we can be.
Whatever chronically ill person you are may you be at peace and have the most rewarding life you can, in your own way.