When your brain is the "shame" lady from Game of Thrones.
When you're living with a chronic illness, some days are better than others. Hell, some hours are better than others. You're living at the mercy of a thing that can change on a dime, so it's no surprise that this past weekend, the sickness of it all got in the way of a happy occasion.
When I'm not writing about being sick, I'm a regular, 26-year-old girl. I go to bars with my friends, I watch The Bachelorette and other terrible reality TV, and I try to keep up with friends and family and adult responsibilities like paying my bills and cleaning my apartment.
I'm in a pretty good mental place with my illness compared to a few years ago –– I've largely accepted my new reality and I've learned that rest is non-negotiable, and so is listening to my body. I've slowly but surely gotten better at advocating for myself. I've struck a pretty decent balance.
Even still, when this holiday weekend came around and I was in charge of all things maid-of-honoring for my sister's bachelorette party and bridal shower, I couldn't help but struggle with an all-enveloping sense of guilt and worthlessness. I see my sister, and my mom, and the rest of our family hustling to make things perfect, and it reminds me that I can't do as much as I once could. That's when my anxiety takes over.
So while I may put up an optimistic front on social media, what should have been a wholly happy weekend was tinged with inescapable feelings of shame and self-consciousness. In spite of overwhelming evidence that pushing myself too hard makes me sicker, I'm constantly fighting an internal battle over whether or not I could be better if I just tried harder. I try to remind myself that my self-worth is not based solely on my productivity, but then the devil on my shoulder comes in to say "other people notice you aren't helping as much as everyone else, and they're mad at you for it. Other people see that you didn't get as much done today as they did, and they think you're lazy and inconsiderate." We all need to cut ourselves some more slack and stop glorifying the endless stream of "busy" as an accomplishment, but it's hard to do in a society that focuses in so hard on hustling.
Suffice it to say, last weekend I did what might look to a healthy person like the bare minimum, and I leaned heavily on my family for help. I wanted to do it all, and it was a harsh reality to come to terms with the fact that I couldn't. I don't have as many usable hours in a day as a healthy person my age. And no matter how much I meditate on that and push myself to accept it, there are still going to be occasions (like your sister's wedding shower) where that reality makes you want to cry.
Sunday night, my body had finally had enough of what for me was a "busy" weekend. I was in massive amounts of pain, curled up in the fetal position on my mom's kitchen floor, pretty bridal shower makeup unceremoniously smeared down my face. The pain was terrible, but it's part of my life –– the harder pain to swallow was the voice in my head that just kept saying, "why can't you be normal?"
I don't mean to be overly negative, but rather, to recognize that it's okay to have bad hours, or bad days, or bad weekends. It's okay to logically know that your productivity in making centerpieces doesn't define you, while still experiencing guilt over not being able to do it all. It's okay to get frustrated by your circumstances. You don't always have to be strong and stoic. I work every day to cope with the feelings of guilt that my illness has given me, and as I grow, I will get better at it. And even then, it will still be okay to have a bad day.