When I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, one of the first things to go (besides control of my body) was my self love. It wasn’t a conscious choice. Traumatic life events like chronic illness tend to have a negative effect on self love.
What is Self Love?
Self love is not a state of being like happiness. It’s not simply a feeling. It is a dynamic revolution. It is a necessary foundation for how I treat myself and how I am treated in the world. To me, self love is unconditional, relentless adoration and acceptance.
I harken it to a parents love almost. There’s not much you can do that will make your mom or dad stop loving you! You may disagree with each other, fight with each other, disappoint each other but the love is still there.
They don’t love you because you’re perfect or because you do exactly what they tell you to. They love you for who you are and who you are not.
When everything in your life is going great, it’s easy to love yourself. But unconditional self love is loving yourself even when everything seems to be falling apart. Unconditional self love is loving and accepting every aspect of yourself – the good, the bad and even the chronic illness.
Lacking Self Love with a Chronic Illness
I’ve talked about my struggles with perfectionism before, so when things don’t go according to plan I’m HIGHLY upset. Imagine me knowing the thing not going according to plan was “me”:
How can I not control me? Why does my body attack itself? Who can love the thing that’s oppressing them?
That’s the reality of having a chronic illness or an autoimmune disease. Often times our bodies are prisons to which we are held captive. There is no escaping. It just is. I’ve never heard an inmate say how much they love prison (but maybe some do).
Between the symptoms and the side effects of the medicine, I was trapped in a body that felt foreign to me. Forget self-love. I hated that body and that person. She was my enemy. I self-loathed.
Who’s supposed to love a person who looks like a pirate (from the eye patch to cover my droopy lid) wincing in pain (but really just trying to smile) or one who is in the hospital every other week?
You are that’s who – well me in this case.
How do you love yourself with chronic illness?
I read in Psychology Today that “research shows that maintaining positive feelings about ourselves during illness flares can improve both physical and mental well-being.” But how the hell are you supposed to do that?
It’s not easy. Let me just say that. Living with myasthenia gravis has me constantly walking on the edge of a cliff. At any moment I’m prone to jump into a pit of despair. It’s so easy to self-blame, especially when flare-ups are crises occur. Actually I’m a gold member of the SB club.
I’m constantly wondering what I’ve done to make my body behave this way. After all, it’s my body. I should be able to control it right? Obviously, it’s something I’ve done to deserve this horrible fate. While that may not be true but it feels like it is.
Self Love in Everyday Life
When your self love plummets it can affect many areas of your life. If you don’t put in the work to build it back up, insecurity runs rampant. You question your ability to do any and everything. Self esteem, self confidence and worthiness are all called into question on a daily basis.
Y’all remember when I tried to get my motorcycle license right? I didn’t have the confidence in myself. I doubted if I could do it. Pre myasthenia gravis me would have never questioned my ability to do it.
At the end of the day I was disappointed in myself, twice over. Once for having a chronic illness and then again for allowing it to rob me of my self love. Only one of those things I had control over.
One of the reasons I started the Self Love Challenge was because I was tired of not liking myself. I knew it was illogical to hate myself for things beyond my control but I was struggling to break the habit.
The only way I know to combat chronic illness self blame is with self love. That means accepting myself and my illness despite how much I wish things were different. It means yielding self compassion when I’m not able to do xyz and celebrating when I am.
Advice on Self Love with a Chronic Illness
If I could sum it all up, I’d say this:
Be your own “parent”. Shower your inner child with unconditional self love. If the parent thing doesnt work, be your own best friend.
If your bff came to you in shambles because of an illness they couldn’t control, how would you react? Would you beat them down with words and tell them they are worthless? Nah – you wouldn’t (or at least I hope you wouldn’t).
All I’m really tryna say is, be kind to yourself. You’re going through enough.