Health

Accepting Your Body with Chronic Illness

Interestingly, today’s blog post topic was decided on weeks ago. I say “interestingly” because Tuesday was the worst pain day that I’ve had since I had knee surgery, and Wednesday was the after effect of Tuesday. No hyperbole; that’s the truth. So how can I accept this body that’s trying to destroy itself – quite literally – and not hate it while living with chronic illness? How can I accept the excruciating pain that comes with that body?

Living with Chronic Illness

What Do I Mean By Accepting It?

First of all, I do not mean that I believe that there is nothing I can do for my body. Not at all. I believe that I should fight for finding a treatment that works, that I should everything I can to feel better, that I should treat my body well. However, I believe that living with chronic illness – in my case living with an autoimmune disease where my body attacks itself – doesn’t mean that I should not love my body or that I should hate it. I accept that this is what’s going on. And besides, as of right now there’s no cure, so it doesn’t make sense to reject the reality of my body.

Why Should I Accept My Body?

Because everyone deserves to love themselves. Everyone is worthy of that, including you. Accept that your body is sick, and accept that just because you are sick does not mean that you are not worthy of love, especially from yourself. You deserve it. You really do.

But even more than that, I want to pour my limited energy into productive means. I would rather spend my time researching treatments, anti-inflammatory foods, the best exercise for people with arthritis, etc. than by being angry at my body for not working correctly. We’re not sure exactly why I developed inflammatory arthritis, but there’s no way to erase it, so there’s no point in spend a large amount of time angry with my body. If I only have a certain number of “spoons” per day, I would rather spend them in physical therapy than by hating my body.

Now, if you don’t have an official diagnosis yet – or at least one that you think fits your symptoms – I would advise accepting the things you can’t change but also fighting tooth and nail to find a doctor who takes you seriously and helps you find your correct diagnosis. Accept that maybe you can’t change certain things with a diagnosis or medication because you deserve it.

How Can I Accept My Body?

First of all, identify what you are mad at – because you are 100% allowed to feel mad about your chronic illness. Be mad at the disease itself, psoriatic arthritis in my case. But don’t blame your body as a whole. The way I explain it, my immune system is broken. It thinks that my joints are an invading army like bacteria, and so my immune system attacks my joints. I hate this disease, I really do, but I don’t hate my joints. Occasionally, I do hate my body. But I try to save that for the bad days.

So how can you accept your body while living with chronic illness? Identify the specific issues and what’s causing them and be mad at those if you have to be mad at something. Also, treat your body right, and treat yourself. Your life is hard enough; you deserve nice things when you can. Loving your body regardless of how you feel is important. You deserve love, especially from yourself.

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  • Still trying to accomplish this after suffering from a chronic illness for years. I do think you’ve touched on a good point–it’s still okay to hate the disease but love your body at the same time. I can get mad at my disease for making me feel ____, but that doesn’t mean I have to be mad at my body for it since that’s what I’m fighting to take care of and heal!

    • Yes! Love and take care of yourself while still fighting the disease.

  • It was painful reading this because I know you’re quite young. I”m 56 and I decided that I wasn’t going to live with back pain, I joined a gym and hired their trainer, learned how to lift weights correctly to build muscle to support my bones, now I am pain free. Do some research on how building muscle makes the bones stronger and don’t settle on living with pain.

    • Hi Lily, I understand you mean well, but you seem to have missed the crucial point here: I have psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disease where my immune system attacks my joints. I have a severe case of it where there is inflammation and some permanent joint damage in 56 joints, so there are a few things about me and what I am speaking about here that you should know. First, this post is not about me trying to convince people to not fight to feel better. Second, because I have an autoimmune disease, building muscle to support my bones will not make me pain free. Yes, I exercise in ways that are approved by multiple physical therapists and doctors. Yes, I have muscle. No, that has not improved my pain. No, that will never prevent me from future pain. Exercise and building muscle may help some arthritis patients. Hell, it may dramatically improve them. But we caught my case approximately 9 years too late. I’m not sure how you found my blog, but you must not be a regular reader or else you would not be telling me that I’m settling for living in pain. Please read this post on things that upset people with chronic illness: http://katethealmostgreat.com/how-to-help-someone-who-has-a-chronic-illness/. Please read my health story: http://katethealmostgreat.com/year-14-of-pain/. If you have any questions that do not imply that I’m not doing enough to help myself and it is my fault that I still live with pain, let me know.

  • Ashley

    Reading your blog makes me feel a little less hopeless and crazy. Some people just assume I’m being dramatic and I can just get over it…no. I WISH that’s how it works and it was that easy. Thank you for being so honest. You’re an inspiration to keep fighting against what is fighting us instead of fighting against ourselves.

    • You are so welcome! I’m so glad that I can help in some way. It can definitely be hard thinking that you’re crazy. It’s not that easy! I hope that by being open and upfront about my experiences, I can help other people realize what others are dealing with. Keep fighting!

  • Katy

    So glad I just stumbled upon your blog today. I’ve suffered from chronic joint pain due to joint space narrowing and muscle, ligament, and tendon tightness for a little over two years now (diagnosed sometime in early November 2013). Because everyone else I know that has chronic joint pain is older (40s, 50s, and 60s) it’s so comforting to know that there are other younger people going through a similar struggle.

    • There are so many younger people living with chronic pain (unfortunately). The hard thing is that most of us either don’t talk about it or are kind of stuck away from the world. With social media and the Internet in general, hopefully that will change. For now, though, just know that you are not alone. There’s a great Twitter community, too! Try checking out the hashtags for chronicpain, rheum, chroniclife, spoonie, etc. and you’ll find plenty of vocal people like us.

      • Meia_Ti

        on Tumblr too 🙂

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  • Brandi Clevinger

    I strongly believe that accepting your body and illness is the first step in recovery. You put this so blatantly clear, yet gently firm. I’d like to share this at tomorrow’s Chronic Friday Linkup. If it’s not okay to share, please let me know and I’ll remove it from the linkup.

    Thank you for an encouraging, positive post! I’m also sharing this on my group board, Chronic Illness at https://www.pinterest.com/beingfibromom/chronic-illness-group-board/

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  • Brittany

    Hi Kate, I just came across your post via Pinterest when I searched “chronic illness”. I have hypothyroidism, but this year despite my efforts my body is rebelling in a way as I can describe as chronic illness. I’ve visiting a new doctor now and being tested for many things in search for an official diagnosis. I have been very angry at my body. It’s depressing seeing photographs of myself when I was healthy before and had dreams that I could chase without the fear of my body exhausting itself to the point of being so fatigued, trembly, and achy. I’m discovering new dreams now– #1 fighting for my body– but I mourn the person I thought I would be. It’s also frustrating having this invisible illness that the people around me can’t understand. What I despise hearing most from well-meaning people is “It must be depression or anxiety driven.”

    In the end I know I’ll be okay, but it’s hard on my worst days to feel worthy. My favorite quote you wrote: “…everyone deserves to love themselves. Everyone is worthy of that,
    including you. Accept that your body is sick, and accept that just because you are sick does not mean that you are not worthy of love, especially from yourself. You deserve it. You really do.”

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  • jenny

    I also have psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia, and damage to my lower back, sacroiliac joints and hips, and my diagnosis didn’t happen until I was nearly 40. I do understand your pain, the emotional fatigue that goes with it, and the will to fight for a better tomorrow. Looking back I can see pretty clearly how much of my life has been stolen by this disorder, but I am so grateful to have a name for it, something to call it on those really uncomfortable days, and also the reason why I have to be vigilant about caring for myself. I can’t say that I love my body, but I do respect it a great deal and I do my best to care for it, broken bits and everything. I want to applaud you for facing this down while you are young, I wasted vital years thinking I was just a hypochondriac because nothing made sense. Keep fighting for a better tomorrow, your tomorrow self will thank you 🙂

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  • Love this. I have fibro and CFS. Granted I am a loot older than you, 51 now, but accepting my limitations has been one of the hardest things for me. I was once a professional dancer, I had total control over my body and it was capable of beautiful and amazing things. To realize it now has control over me and unable sometimes to do basic things is difficult and frustrating and sad. But accept it I must if I am to move on with my life. Thanks for posting. http://www.sugarloafdream.com

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