Do I Forgive Myself For Having Narcolepsy? Fostering Self-Love With Chronic Illness

by julie on July 30, 2012

“Do I forgive myself for having narcolepsy?” I wondered recently.

What a terrible question to ask myself. I didn’t cause my narcolepsy… so why would I need to forgive myself?  I aim to inspire others, yet I’m still battling my own demons. Am I a phony?

Five years ago, I found the words narcolepsy and cataplexy, a monumental step towards realizing that I was facing a “real” illness.  My emotions have run the gamut – from denial and anger to pride and joy. I’ve grieved the loss of my “old self” yet found a new life path I love.  

 After five years, shouldn’t I be done healing?

Self-forgiveness is letting go of something from the past.  Narcolepsy isn’t entirely in my past – it’s also in my present and future.  Living with chronic illness, new experiences can contribute to feelings of inadequacy, guilt and sadness. 

I wish I had a solution to this problem. Perhaps acknowledging that every day won’t be perfect is part of the healing. Or maybe it’s unreasonable to expect to be 100% “at peace” with narcolepsy after five years. Who knows. 

Although I don’t have answers, I’ve learned some useful tactics to foster self-love:

1. Recognizing the ebb and flow: There are good times and bad.  On bad days, it’s easy to forget that good days will return, but they do!

2. Ear-Muffs! Mute the negative self-talk.  Wonderful people are really good at seeing the worst in themselves.  Treat yourself like you’d treat others. When’s the last time you told a dear friend, “You’re a terrible person for skipping your workout”? Never – because it’s ridiculous!  You deserve compassion and respect, and it must start within.

3. Positive mantras (to replace negative self-talk): I’ve picked up mine from yoga classes and books. Many are in my art journal. I also downloaded MyThoughts+ app and love it!

4. There’s no cycle to break: “I didn’t get everything done today; last week was a failure and next week will be too.” Stop!  Today is new and doesn’t depend on yesterday. Let’s be reasonable about how many hours there are in a day, make a plan and go for it. Ever onward!

5. Difficulty is difficult, but not pointless: In our society, “challenges” are viewed as bad things, something we’d rather hide from, naturally – because they hurt. For me, I try to view my challenges as reminders to appreciate my healthier times. This mind-set change has been incredibly helpful. More on this here.

6.  You are not alone: newly diagnosed with narcolepsy, and other chronic illnesses, you may feel that your community doesn’t “get it”. The disconnect is disheartening. With time, you will meet people amazed by your strength and determination. I continue to feel like angels are dropping down from heaven disguised as my friends.

These tactics won’t make difficulty dissappear, they just help me get by. In writing this post, I’ve decided I’m not a phony, I’m human. I hunt for positivity as my way of coping. And today, I’m celebrating the strength and comradery that comes from being honest and sharing my challenges. Thank you!

“Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain.”
-Anonymous 

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