This is probably one of the most controversial things I’ve ever written on this blog, but I really feel moved to put it out there, so here it it. I wrote this blog post years ago, years before I even started blogging, after reading Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing, by the unfathomable (in a good way!), Caroline Myss.
I realised a few years ago that my illness made me live in absolute fear. When you’re diagnosed with something, there’s always fear and uncertainty, and for most people, it passes…but not for me. I was too tired and sick to think much about it at the beginning, but as I started to heal, I realised that, as twisted and strange as this might seem, I was holding on to some parts of being ill. They were comfortable, they were familiar and they came to be all I’d ever known. I became the ‘just in case’ girl- I’m not going to apply for that job just in case I get rejected, I’m not going to go out for that meal tonight just in case I feel tired tomorrow, I’m not going to ask him for help just in case he thinks I’m an idiot. I lived in my safe, secure little comfort zone, thanks to my illness.
This is not meant to upset anyone or to accuse anyone of faking illness or showing you that it’s all in your head. If you’re ill, you’re ill. CFS is definitely not an ‘in your head’ illness- the symptoms, as we all know, can be gut-wrenching, painful, never-ending and confronting. This article is for you if you are nearly there, but not quite, and you’re looking for something to pull you up a little. I had this realisation a while ago and it was very relevant to me, so maybe it will be for you too.
Here are 5 reasons why you or someone you know might be scared of getting better. If any of these strike a chord with you, ask yourself why and if you’re still holding on to any of them. Be honest.
1) You Still Need Down-Time and Rest
Just before I became ill, I was a mini-superwoman. Straight A student, choir, orchestra, athletics team, netball team, debating team, you name it. I didn’t realise it at the time, but my body and mind were craving some time out. I didn’t listen for a long time, so my body gave me time out- for a long time.
Being ill is not just taxing on your body, but mentally and emotionally draining. Often, as the physical symptoms have eased up, we’re left with an emotional ‘hangover’, which can leave us shattered, raw and feeling vulnerable. Thinking about your illness and healing is tiring, and maybe you’re mind is still recovering, even though your body seems to be ok. Go easy on yourself and give yourself a break.
2) Attention from your Family and Friends
Don’t get me wrong, I have the most supportive and loving family you could ever hope for, but because I was so busy being busy, I often pushed away their love and concern. Being ill subconsciously meant that I was closer to them, that I was accepting their love and they openly validated their love for me. It felt good that someone else gave me the care and attention I couldn’t give myself.
3) You Don’t Like Change
There was one point during my illness lying in bed where I genuinely couldn’t imagine living a normal life. Think about it- no responsibilities, no stress, no career path, nothing. It’s a hell of a lot easier not to have to deal with all this stuff and let others take the reins. I knew facing change and being responsible was going to be stressful and difficult, so I resisted it as much as possible through continued illness. I don’t mean to say I ‘faked’ my illness, but my negative thoughts kept me going in circles. I now love, love, love change as it makes you a brighter, more courageous person. I couldn’t have gotten to this point without my illness.
4) You’re Petrified of What Others Think of you
If you’ve been ill for a while and it’s an illness that really affected your life, it’s so much easier to play it small. It’s so much easier to feel secretly ashamed and play it safe. I did everything I could to avoid questions relating to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: “But everyone gets really tired, don’t they?”, “Isn’t it just depression?”. For the most part though, I discovered all the questions and opinions I thought people would have were completely unfounded. Everyone was just glad I was ok and that I was recovering from whatever that ‘thing’ was.
5) You’re Absolutely Petrified of being your True Self
This for me was the big one. If I got better and really wanted to make a go of things again, this would mean having to really figure out what I wanted, where I was going, and more importantly, who I was. Thinking about it was absolutely terrifying and completely exhausting. For a lot of people, they would rather stick pins in their eyes than come clean, stand up and be their true selves. I truly believe that my illness was rooted in being inauthentic and in doing what everyone else wanted me to do. So I just hid and so did my body.
You are amazing. You are brilliant and unique, and you know this. You’ve always known this. In sickness or in health, stand up and be counted. Take your healing day by day and do not lose hope that one day you will get there. It is your life- live it.
If any of this has struck a chord with you, I’d love to hear from you below. Where are you playing small? Do you think there are any advantages to being ill?
Love and honesty,