Self-Esteem: "What did I do to deserve this?"

From the time of Job in the Old Testament, it's only natural that at some point for the person who is beset with chronic illness and all the bs baggage that comes with it, cries out:
"What did I do to deserve this?"

It's also a natural law that the questions you choose to ask determine the answer you will get.
If you ask, "What did I do to deserve this?", you invite the demons of self-abuse to give you answers.
You will open yourself up to recriminations over the past (I should have gone to the doctor sooner, I shouldn't have played rugby and sustained injuries, I shouldn't have travelled abroad and gotten malaria, I should have eaten only organic foods.... and so on and so on....)

Unfortunately, today in America there is a huge industry and culture based on telling people who are sick that they did something to deserve illness. There are doctors, frustrated by being unable to cure an illness, who seek theories that blame the patient for getting sick. There is a huge industry of self-help pop psychology that tells the patient that they are to blame (you have a bad attitude, you are negative, you haven't forgiven some a**hole that hurt you in the past, blah blah blah). Then there is an industry of "natural health" proponents who say you are ill because you don't follow their diet, buy their blue-green algae, etc. Even more confusing is the fact that there are so many "natural health" diets and products, and they contradict each other and cancel each other out. You should eat a diet high in animal protein vs. you should eat only vegan raw foods vs. you should eat only vitamin smoothies vs....... etc. etc.

OF COURSE people with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Illness want to and should seek out all techniques (medical, psychological, naturopathic) to improve their health and make their lives more meaningful!

But the dark side to this is that in approaching with an "what did I do wrong?" attitude, we open ourselves up to BLAME for our illness. And the self-blame feeds into the depression, anxiety and stress that clearly makes Chronic Illness WORSE.

The truth is.... none of us is perfect. Even saints have made mistakes and done things they regret. Mother Teresa did not follow the Atkins Diet or use supplements. Hardened criminals can be psychologically messed up, full of "unresolved issues" but still have rock hard, strong, predatory, healthy bodies. If we search in anyone's past, with an attitude of blame, we can find something they did that could be a cause of chronic illness. But not all of those people did get sick. And the people who did get Fibromyalgia did not live any worse lives than those who stay healthy.

"What did you do to deserve this illness?" Nothing, because nobody deserves Chronic Illness.

When you are tempted to fall back into the addictive mindset of "What did I do to deserve this?", try replacing it with:
"What can I do now to make my life the best it can be?"

Now THAT question will lead you to better quality answers, answer that will lead you to self-care, hope, and appreciation of what you have, without shame and blame.

1 comment:

Bananasana said...

Despite not having a chronic illness (I think), I always find your advice helpful. Just sayin'.