I realized something very important about myself in the last several days and it is quite simply that for most of my life I have been judging myself too harshly and overlooking many things I should be proud of.
It seems such a simple thing that I should have been aware of and even been trying to stop myself from doing all this time. But never did I truly realize the extent to which I had been over criticizing myself and looking down on myself until my husband mentioned it in passing.
I also realized that these judgmental voices are simply those that were put in my head from my childhood and they grew to be powerful forces all my adult life… They are incredibly destructive ones to try and share a chronic life with!
As I was doing my daily browse across the social media platforms and unconsciously comparing myself unfavorably to all those who people who are working, holidaying, getting fit, going out and generally living their lives, I would always be left with the searing pain of always not feeling good enough and not achieving enough.
The voices of my youth were clear and loud.
It is the emotional equivalent of putting your hand to a flame and being burnt over and over again. Never really being able to stop yourself. Always going back for more.
I have always envied those who were constantly proud of their accomplishments and were perpetually pleased with everything they did and everything they were, no matter how small. Such self esteem! Such confidence! Such bliss!
The other night during the darkest hours of 2 a.m. I started returning to the emotional flame again and asking myself “what have I to be proud of? What can I ever enjoy about my life?”
At that time my husband woke and saw me laying there in my usual silence. He slowly sat up and we started to talk.
He reminded me of the day he met me and how I was this young 30 something trying to work full time and do a full time law degree at the same time!.. And I was passing!
Few people could fathom what an effort that requires; until it had became too much to juggle and my illnesses were stirring away in the background.
He reminded me of the way in which I travelled to another country on my own to holiday and explore. Few people would even consider doing such things, but I did it and enjoyed it. He reminded of the bravery needed to step on the plane and go to a large city, to a job I had never done before, to a company I had never worked in before, without a home, without knowing a soul and to take on a management role. No support. No safety net. No money. No margin for error.
And yet we made it.
He reminded me of the way in which we handled losing so many of our closest loved ones in one terrible year. Four of our closest loved ones gone and yet we kept on going and working. And how we also moved cities again and new jobs with only each other for support.
And yet we made it.
He reminded me that since becoming terribly ill and battling so many physical challenges I still managed to carry out international I.T. Projects, travel overseas (wheelchair and all), start my own blog and advocacy page, renovate our home, start support groups for fellow sufferers, develop my artwork and enter art shows, keep us financially stable despite not being able to return to work, imagine and develop businesses, write guest pieces for health journals, rescue many shelter animals, generously help and support friends and loved ones, despite suffering unimaginable pain on a daily basis.
He reminded me that the very fact that I was still fighting on after over a decade of pain, suffering, rejection, loss, cruel comments, judgements, medications, treatments and side effects that I was still here and I hadn’t given up, been institutionalized, suicided or become hardened and unloving. He said this was amongst the most amazing achievements he had ever known. That many people will ever know.
The voices in my head never let me see all this until now.
Chief amongst all these achievements, in my eyes, is that we have worked together to create a strong, happy, fulfilling, loving, supportive, rewarding home and marriage that has withstood hardships and challenges that many able bodied relationships rarely survive. Even stronger than the relationships I grew up with in my childhood. We have done so without a moments support, encouragement or mentoring.
We did it together.
Often as chronically ill or/and disabled fighters we see ourselves as who we aren’t and forget about the many things we are. It is for this reason I have decided that every day I will devote time to seeing things and honoring things about myself that I never did before, until the voices become quieter and hopefully a new voice will have a chance to be heard. Finally.