Friday, 12 July 2013

30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge: Day 13

Day 13: Has your physical illness had any effect on your mental health? Explain.

My inner child really wants to answer any statement ending in "explain" with "No!" However, for the benefit of my lovely readers I shall behave myself.

I don’t think something so all encompassing could *not* have an effect, really. I think for me it has manifested in two ways – and on a side note, I think I’ll have had my fill of self-examination for a  good long while when I reach the end of this challenge!

I am by nature a bit of a people pleaser, and all those tendencies were heightened dramatically for some time after falling ill. As much as I’m trying to tame it I do have a bit of an impulse to put myself out and not speak up to make it easier for everyone around me. With that in mind, as mentioned yesterday the thought of having to explain why a particular situation is a problem to someone unfamiliar with my health fills me with absolute horror.

I’m working on being more assertive with this – you do I think eventually arrive at a place where you realise your health is too important to play meek and mild with it, and pretending there isn’t an issue when there is helps no one.

To be completely candid, I’m also not the queen of self confidence in general. I’m not virtually crippled with lack of it as I was when I was younger any more – I’m told I’ve come a long way in the last couple of years in particular – but I don’t think I’m ever going to be a tremendously forward or assuming person. It’s not in my nature, and to digress slightly I don't think that's a problem. I really resent this idea that we should all be super confident and super socialised - who would get a word in edgeways if we were all the same in that regard?

So whilst the issue definitely existed beforehand, falling ill very much extended talons of self doubt and anxiety. I’m no great beauty but even so, I could do without the bloating, facial rashes and the haggard sunken look I briefly took on. Would that be OK, body?

Not a cat’s chance in hell? Oh.

Physical appearance aside, I did go through a stage of feeling guilty and miserable in response to it all. I felt like I was a problem for the people around me and I did go through a horrible phase of fearing to talk about it for anxiety about the way it would be perceived. Thankfully it didn’t take me long to realise that firstly I needed to speak about it for my own well being, and secondly that doing so in a wry and joking fashion not only proved cathartic for me but also seemed to have a calming effect on those around me – if I was able to laugh at it then maybe they didn’t have to worry so much.

On the flipside I’m naturally a very determined and positive person and the attitude of “you won’t beat me” spread deep roots very quickly – it gave me something to really sink my teeth into, and a chance to unleash my very best stubborn tendencies. Since then I’ve almost turned mulish digging in of heels into an art form.

As self-deprecating as it probably sounds with the way I write, I view this as something good. It has (touch wood) kept the wolves of “becoming my illness” and ending up a spectator of life far from my door.

A tidbit - from this attitude came the name of this blog. In a round of messaging which made my inner nerd far FAR too happy, some of my fellow Malazaners on Tumblr named me a Bridgeburner.

I'm giving up. I've already won at life!

(This so beautifully encapsulates my attitude. Image courtesy of

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