This is not a pity post. So not my style. But it is an explaining post. Self confidence and validation are fragile things. Everyone needs to feel good about themselves, either because they can see things for themselves or because someone else gives them a boost, it’s human nature. Without realising, there’s lots of things which give us worth or value every day. It could be simple things like ‘I like your top’ to ‘well done on that project’. It doesn’t have to be direct praise, it could be a thank you, a sense of accomplishment from finishing your to do list, or something your child comes out with which is cute and makes you think ‘this is all worth it’. We like to have purpose as human beings.
Equally there’s lots of things that we or other people do to take us down every day which flattens or confidence, but let’s not get into that here!
If you’re sick, your validation, self worth and self confidence goes down. It has to, you’re spending a lot of time by yourself so you automatically lose any validation you were getting from other people. I don’t always get dressed and if I do I don’t get dressed up (what’s the point?) so I don’t have a ‘good feeling’ from wearing nice clothes. I tend to wear the same clothes out all the time because I can’t really justify spending money on nice clothes when I don’t have a job. I don’t have a job so I don’t feel satisfaction for doing something well and I clearly can’t get thanked for doing a good job. I don’t do much which can be classed as an achievement – unless showering counts – so there’s no feeling of pride.
So already it’s quite easy to feel worthless. Then if you have an illness where your mood is altered as well, which I do, it’s even more tricky. As well as feeling like you’re worthless and have no value, your brain tells you that regularly as well, and, even better, it probably also has all these wonderful examples of how useless you were in various situations!
All that going on would make it very easy to not get out of bed and get dressed every day. What’s the point? Why bother if you’re not worth anything, don’t do anything, and have no purpose?
This is where you have to start thinking about life differently if you have a chronic illness. Everyone else looks for validation in things that they achieve. Look at social media for examples of that, it’s littered with selfies of people doing ‘amazing’ things and they get validation from the likes they get. But if you’re sick, you can’t physically chase the ‘next thing’ and things move a lot more slowly and focus less on material things. So when I’m having a ‘you’re not worth anything’ day, I try to remind myself that:
-my body didn’t die overnight. It kept breathing, and my heart kept beating, and it did a lot of stuff that meant that I woke up again in the morning. That’s pretty damn clever.
– my achievements might be less than others but the effort and commitment required to do them is still the same. So small things, like showering, still deserve to be celebrated.
– I’ve provided a lot of med students (and more experienced doctors) with the opportunity to practise and learn about my endocrine illness. So I might not have actively achieved anything that day but there might be a doctor somewhere thinking ‘I’ve seen this before, I know what needs to be done’ and be able to help another patient out because I’ve ‘taught’ them about adrenal insufficiency in the past. I find this particularly helpful to think about after a hospital admission when I’m about as useful as a sack of potatoes, but at least someone learnt something because of me that week!
Ok so those 3 things aren’t really achievements, they’re more acknowledgements of the fact that I still exist. But it’s still validation and everyone needs that as a human being, even those who spend most of the day in their pyjamas watching day time tv! And, if you do know someone with a chronic illness, finding a way of giving them some kind of validation (but not in a patronising way) will likely give them a boost they need, even if it’s a simple ‘this cup of tea you made me is great’ 🙂 .