Probably the best general “life” advice I’ve ever gotten was from one of my favorite professors in college for a writing class.
“Cultivate your weirdness.”
He had us write it in our notes (or at least I did). Doesn’t sound like most deep and profound bits of wisdom, but it really saved my mental and emotional ass when my flares got bad and even a casual stroll around the block was exhausting.
Let’s face it- if you have Lupus or some other chronic illness, you might have to face the fact that you’ll get tired faster, ache more easily and generally have to start moving at a different pace then you did previously. It sucks, I know. It’s way too easy to feel like you have the scarlet L for Loser branded on you when you can’t dance as long as you used to or run as fast as you used to. It’s even tougher when your friends and family expect you to keep up and roll their eyes if you fall behind (they’ll get over it eventually). It’s a real dent to the old self-esteem. You feel like you’ve become a different person, a boring person, a worthless person.
First of all, it’s okay to feel sad. Have a good two-hour cry, see a therapist, vent in your journal or online…get the emotions out of your system if you need to. But be sensible- do you really want to sit in your room crying for the rest of your life?
I’m going to assume you’re saying ‘no’ and tell you that change isn’t a dirty word.
Lupus isn’t a cold- there is no week-long treatment plan, no magic bullet that lets you immediately go back to your former life like nothing ever happened. Chronic illness means exactly that- it’s chronic. Until more is understood and better treatment (and hopefully prevention) is discovered- you’re in it for the long haul. Habits will need to change, lifestyles will need to adapt- how you see yourself and the world will change also.
Sounds daunting, but the important thing to remember is: Change is not a dirty word. That little mantra is the key to coping.
Now back on topic- how to go about building your self-esteem back up when you’re feeling like a wet blanket of inflammatory DOOM?
Let’s start with three steps to get you started:
- Re-structure your thinking. Try to find opportunity instead of seeing punishment.
- Re-think who you are- to your family, to your friends, to yourself. Too many times we as people are striving to please others, to fit their molds. We do this to feel accepted and loved- and we might do this so many years that it feels like it’s what we actually want. But is it really? Now’s the time to think about who and what you want to be- for yourself, not anyone else.
- Act accordingly. Cultivate your weirdness. Explore new horizons, try new activities, break out of old molds and find new aspects of yourself.
Over the next however many days, I’ll be going into more detail about each one of these steps, how they’ve applied to me and how they can maybe help you. But for now, find a quiet spot and read them over. What do they make you think? What do they make you feel? Do you feel skeptical- or a little tingle of possibility?