I’ve previously been covering self-acceptance from a very general direction. I want to focus in a little more now. Personally, I have found self-acceptance extra hard due to my chronic illnesses and mental illnesses. It only makes sense that other people have the same problems, so I want to share my thoughts and solutions.
One struggle I have is accepting my limits. Whether you compare yourself to what society expects, or to what you could do “before”, it is hard to accept that you can’t just do whatever you “set your mind to”. Before I got sick, I knew that if I decided I was going to do something, it was going to happen. Now I find myself limited by pain and fatigue; if not by depression and anxiety.
I have found it important to accept that these things will happen. It isn’t my fault, and there is no reason for, or benefit to, me to blame myself. Just like the weather can mess with your outdoor plans, my illnesses and mental health can interrupt my daily plans. In accepting this, I can “go with the flow” more and not simply give up.
I used to base my worth on what I could do. My grades, my work, my housework, my caring for the kids, etc., all affected my self-esteem. Then I couldn’t do any of it. Brain fog took my “smarts”, and pain and fatigue took my ability to do housework and mother the way I had been. Anxiety never allowed me to work outside of the house for very long. I was left with nothing and felt I was worthless. My husband and kids showed me I was wrong.
They showed me, but this is true even without them. I am worthy, just by being me. The fact that I exist makes me worthy and valuable. This applies to everyone! You too are valuable and worthy just by existing. You don’t need to earn the right to like yourself.
Taking a Second Look at Limits
So, if we are worthy, just by being alive, our limits don’t take anything away from our value. Physical limits are just a line drawn by our body telling us where we need to stop. Respecting those limits are a part of self-care. Rather than fight them and suffering the consequences, most of the time we need to listen to our bodies.
Now, that isn’t to say never push the limits. Some things we may find “worth it”. An occasional special outing with friends or family can be worth feeling worse for a week or two. Repeatedly pushing ourselves will only worsen our health long-term though. You deserve to be treated better than that.
Our ideal may be being able to do everything for everyone each time, and then we feel guilt, anger, failure, etc when we can’t do it. Changing our outlook and seeing it as a way our loved ones can be there for us is helpful. We have a different situation that does not lead to the “typical” expectations. It is fine to expect a change from others, rather than them expect the same or “normal” from us.
This is where boundaries come in handy. Boundaries show others how to treat us. They are a line drawn in the sand. By setting boundaries, we let others know who we are, what we allow, and what is not tolerated.
Chronically ill people and those with mental health issues may have to be extra tough when it comes to boundaries. Healthy people do not always understand our limits and may forcefully push us to surpass them. We must be stubborn at enforcing those boundaries to care for ourselves. People in our life must understand that we mean business, and crossing our boundaries is not okay. They are just as valid as anyone else’s. So many times, people think that just because they don’t understand our various struggles, the struggles are not legitimate when that is the furthest thing from the truth.
Boundaries can be hard to set. If you need some help figuring out which ones to set, and how to do so, I prepared a free “Setting Boundaries Workbook” for you to download.
It is not your responsibility to convince anyone to respect your boundaries. You set the boundary, it is their place to accept it. Be firm, and your loved ones will catch on.
Rethinking Goals and Dreams
The last way I want to talk about limits has to do with goals and dreams. Having a chronic or mental illness can affect what dreams and goals are possible. That doesn’t mean you should give up on them though. you have a few possibilities. First it is possible that you can find a way to use modifications to make it happen. For instance, someone who wants to be an author, but loses the ability to type, can use voice recognition software to write still. If your dream job seems un-achievable, perhaps there is still something in the same or similar field that you can do.
I didn’t think there was any career available for me. Between high pain days, bad fatigue, and my depression or anxiety acting up, I’m not exactly the epitome of a reliable employee. This limits job/career choices quite a lot. Now, I didn’t have any certain job in mind to begin with. In fact, I chose to not go to college (and use my scholarship), because I didn’t have any goal in mind. Nothing has ever grabbed my attention.
After being diagnosed, it didn’t seem likely I would ever be employable. Well, maybe I’m not, but I’ve found a way to employ myself. Being a blogger allows me to work within my limits, and it is a way for me to help people, which I’ve always felt a pull toward. I share this personal bit to show how limits don’t have to limit you, but can actually open up previously unseen chances. To see how I work with my limits as a blogger, check out my monthly series, Confessions of a Chronically Ill Blogger.
There are a variety of ways that someone with either a chronic illness or mental health issues will find their journey to self-acceptance a different challenge than a healthy person. I’m going to stop here, but I’ll address other points soon.
Are there any particular concerns you would like me to write about? Let me know in the comments! You can email me anytime also at firstname.lastname@example.org .