A lot of the stigma surrounding chronic illness, of any kind, paints a picture of weakness. Like the picture above, sometimes strength is relative to the situation.
I think we have all heard any of these through our years of battling mental and physical illness:
- Life is tough for everyone, most of us just choose to make the best of it
- Don’t say you are going to come if you are just going to back out last minute because you are tired or sore
- See, you came out and had a good time – that wasn’t so hard, was it?
- Have you tried this, that, or the other thing?
- Don’t tell people you are sick, they will take it as a sign of weakness
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. The truth is, people with chronic illness are some of the strongest and bravest I know.
Some people deal with bones that break sometimes for no reason and don’t heal properly or at all. Yet they still manage to have a life, as limited as it may be. Others suffer from crippling depression or anxiety to the point where it is hard to be in public, but they do as much as they can. And still others deal with so much pain they can’t think straight but some even manage to hold down jobs.
As well, people with chronic pain and other illnesses struggle to do things that healthy people take for granted. I remember one time a guy said that it must be nice to be disabled as I get a pass that allows me to park in handicapped stalls nice and close to wherever I was going…and he was serious! I said I would much rather not need it and park further away so I get some exercise.
The strengths that people with illness develop go way beyond coping with their circumstances. They also need the strength to deal with society.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying every healthy individual looks at chronic illness with stigma. Hey, to be honest, there are very few people in the world who don’t have something either they are hiding or is invisible to the world. It is just a matter of how severe it is and the attitude of the person themselves.
This weekend I was dealing with extraordinary pain which in turn triggered some depression. Nothing I attempted seemed to go well. I was getting really frustrated and snapped at my Hubby, the dog, and the cat even though it had nothing to do with any of them. When I realized what I was doing to my family I finally did a quick audit of the situation, monitored pain and anxiety levels, and then did some quick apologizing and behavior adjustments.
When I think of those who are worse off than me and I see how strong they are, I humble myself and exercise my coping muscles!
Oh, this came in the mail today. When I first saw it I knew I had to have one. Maybe it will be a reminder to me and a help to those around me see that my strength is about just getting through the day.