Today I thought we would talk about something a little different and look at some things I wish I realised before my chronic illnesses.
My life was very different before I became sick, I honestly didn’t really think about sickness unless I had a cold or something. Back then there were signs of illness gathering, but I never connected the dots and I didn’t really do much to look after myself.
I struggled with eating back then, often skipping meals or eating very small portions so that I wouldn’t put on weight. I did not think about the impact of my lifestyle on my health, or how my chosen profession of nursing bought a lot of stress into my life and impacted my body.
After getting sick everything changed, and here on the blog I often talk about that, I think it’s important that we change the narrative that every person on disability is lazy. I wanted more than a life feeling sick and tried hard though now I know I was born with illnesses that affected my abilities.
But today I want to try and help healthy people see us differently by explaining the things I wish I had known before sickness dominated my life.
Some things I wish I realised before my chronic illnesses:
- Rest is important – when I was healthy, I would often push myself passed tiredness determined to ‘earn’ it. I felt like I could only sit down and rest after doing all the jobs I had decided needed to be done that day. I wish I had let my body rest when it needed it instead realising that if I listened to my body I would feel better. There is no need to push ourselves to the point of exhaustion in fact it is better for us not to, but we live in a capitalist society and are taught to be productive at all times.
- My mental health matters – I now know how important my mental health is, if I am struggling I will find someone to talk to. But back before I was sick, I would do anything to mask my thoughts and feelings. My go to was alcohol, constantly turning to it to get over social anxiety and paranoia in social situations. I wish I had known there are people around me who would have understood me better had I just asked for help or gone to my doctor.
- Love your body how it is – I have always been hard on myself, desperate to be thin and fit in. I hardly ate anything for years afraid of putting on weight and even when I was a UK size 6, I thought I was fat. I wish instead I had been kinder and loved myself and my natural curves instead of not feeling good enough because of them. Wishing I could be thin like Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie were back then, the ‘heroin chic look’ making me feel like I would never be good enough.
- Don’t give in to anxiety – Too often I allowed my anxiety to hold me back, I listened too much to that voice of worry in my head. I said no to experiences I would have enjoyed, and yes to things I didn’t want to do because I wanted to fit in with the people around me. Most of the time I showed people a masked or toned down version of myself because I was afraid nobody would like me for just being me. The truth is that if I had just been myself the right people would have liked me and I probably would have enjoyed my life a lot more too!
- You are stronger than you know – I always felt like I was about to break, my chronic depression and anxiety disorders working together to leave every day a struggle. But when my body first flared up and I was struggling to walk, I realised I was so much stronger! I was able to go to doctors, face walking aids and losing a job I had worked so hard to train for. I moved back in with my parents when it was clear they did not really want me there, and I kept trying to work though I struggled every single time. I was tougher and stronger and I wish I had known that so I could have had more confidence in myself.
- Practice mindfulness – Yes you knew it was going to be here somewhere! I have struggled my whole life with my mental health. But before I got sick, if I had realised my thoughts have no bearing on reality and I do not have to listen to them, I would have enjoyed my life so much more! Worries about the future, and depressive thoughts about the past stop us all enjoying and appreciating the moment. Mindfulness literally saved my life and changed everything for me and I wish I had realised that before my body
These are things I wish all healthy people knew, because if they did maybe our mental and physical health would be better nationally. Life is hard enough, but we are so socially conditioned that we push ourselves into ill health and don’t enjoy and appreciate the moment we are in.
I hope that me talking about some things I wish I realised before my chronic illnesses resonates with you and helps you to enjoy your life more.
Thank you xx