Reflection: Self-imposed self-hate from being disabled

I had made a remark that working with pain and vertigo made me feel like an idiot. And someone I know well and respect said that wasn’t the case at all. That I didn’t look like an idiot and she respected me. And it made me wonder about perception vs. reality. What hate am I imposing on myself because I am not as capable as I know I could be if not for my health impeding me. Like illness is the enemy preventing me from living the life I should have had. It is to blame. And then I punish myself because of it.

Reflection: Self-imposed self-hate from being disabled

I can say working full-time in pain pushed me beyond my limits and caused a long, dark, depression. So that wasn’t working for me. And with the vertigo I am often confused and spaced out, and unable to process information well. So I wasn’t reliable or dependable or functional. Just a fact.

But how much of how I see myself because I wasn’t capable of something or not doing it as well as I knew I could… made me loathe the person I am? Made me see myself as worthless? I know I am capable of a lot if not for the chronic pain and illnesses. And knowing that and knowing the reality of the situation is a contrast my brain doesn’t like at all. The potential that can’t be realized. Ever. But obviously, my capacity to do things can change with treatment. But all that potential is gone. Doesn’t mean I can’t work in the future, only that any career I had planned is not foreseeable. That fact it is difficult to deal with. But I have accepted it. I have limitations. I have to stay within them.

I know some people helped me with that impression along the way but stigma has a way of sticking to you. You hear it, you feel it, and then you turn it on yourself. And it makes you take that feeling of guilt, fears, and low self-worth and just magnifies them until you feel that is who you are as a person. Which is wrong. Not physically being able to do something doesn’t mean we are a failure as a person.

And yet, you then fear to step out and try again because in the past you couldn’t do it. And the feeling of being unable to do things… is horrible. No one wants to feel that way. It is a real blow to the self-worth such that it is hard to contemplate being able to function enough to work. But if you get effective management you have to dip your toe in. Just a wee bit. Something a few hours a week. And when you succeed, then it will slowly help with the self-worth and that feeling of confidence and competence. Then you can consider, depending on your health, dipping in a little more to part-time.

Maybe you won’t be able to do it. Maybe that is just the way it is. A fact we have to deal with. That in itself doesn’t make us worthless. It means we are disabled. And being disabled isn’t wrong. It isn’t lesser than. And we find other ways to fill the void of work in our own ways. Like I work on my blog and writing. To have some sort of fulfillment while I am disabled by pain and vertigo.

But maybe we can work again, if not a career, then a part-time job. Something not too taxing. Something we might even enjoy. Just something to inch out a bit. And that is another option for us to consider. To not be afraid to try just because we couldn’t before. But only with effective treatment. Only with well-managed symptoms. Only when you can. Only when we feel our limits can be nudged a wee bit. And maybe we can now do more than we could before. Slow and steady though. Everything must be slow and steady if you dip into the workforce again. You need to find your limit and then stay within it.

So we cannot force ourselves to do what we are not capable of. Not with a lot of feeling like a failure. Not without a significant mental and emotional price to be paid, which is even worse. That lingers. The price, man, is a brutal one. Near killed me. And that isn’t a price I would want anyone to ever have to experience. Survival mode and just getting through the day to crash after, day by day, year by year, is torture. And we cannot live like that. Because eventually when we are so tired we will not want to live like that. And then depression will just eat us up.

We need to know we are not failures as people. That we have worth. And who we are intrinsically isn’t actually different. It is just we cannot do that thing. That thing isn’t who we are. It wasn’t our fault. We are not to be blamed for it. It is just something we cannot do.

So it benefits us to think of things we can do. And it certainly benefits us to focus on recovery when we need to. So for this vertigo situation, I am stuck in I can’t function and I get that. So I have to recover from it. And when I do the rehabilitation and it helps to any degree then I can think about what I am and am not capable of. But still need to focus on what we can do and Value what we can do. Because valuing what you can do is vital to how we perceive ourselves.

I refuse to think myself as less worthy because I wasn’t capable of pushing through the pain without effective treatment and paying the price for that. It was a significant price I paid. And that doesn’t make me a failure. It makes me stubborn for not accepting the price was too much to bear and I kept doing it anyway. And my psychologist once mentioned this to me: people who retire from work do not feel this guilt, this worthlessness, this overpowering sense of failure. They no longer work and it is a good thing. They paid their dues. And we feel like we haven’t. That we fail our families financially. But people who retire also can feel a void in their lives when work is gone. Because a lot of our self-identity is in what we Do and without it they are at a loss. Sometimes taking part-time jobs to occupy themselves. Or doing charity. Or picking up a hobby. And we have to look at it the same. We have no work we can do so we have to fill the void with things that we value. That makes us feel like we have worth. And we have to drop that guilt, that sense of having no worth, that feeling of being a failure as well. The difference I told him was that retiring is a choice. Illness is not. We feel like it is Imposed upon us. And we try to function with it, and can’t. It has consequences emotionally. But it shouldn’t. People become ill. People become disabled. We have no less worth because of it.

Yet valuing what I can do, which granted at the moment, is little, makes me feel better about myself. I can blog, just takes me more time. I can manage my social media, just not as well. I can write my fiction, just need people to help me with all the errors that result from being unable to focus. I can do housework, in small little increments with rest after.

I get up in the morning. I get dressed. I rest for a bit. I do 1 thing. That one thing may be just emptying the dishwasher. But I do 1 thing. And then I rest. And then I will work on a blog post or do some social media… on the laptop because sitting at the computer makes me dizzier. And then I rest. And maybe that doesn’t sound like much at all. But for now, it is what I can do. And I get satisfaction from writing, even if it isn’t perfect and I can’t edit well anymore. It makes me feel productive. And it makes me feel good about myself. And maybe more one day after treatment. Maybe not. I cannot say if this is permanent or not. I cannot know the future. But I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt I have to value who I am as a person regardless of work or doing things. That I have to heal my self-worth bit by bit in any way I can. So that if I dip my toe into work I will feel capable and competent and not an idiot. Not a worthless failure. If that happens, I want to know I have value and skills and capabilities… just limitations as well.

It is about acceptance. Acceptance of our limits. Acceptance of who are are now in the moment… not who we were, could have been, or might be. Acceptance we may never be capable of work but being disabled doesn’t make us lesser. Acceptance if we can work it might not be at the level we want or desire due to our limits. And valuing ourselves no matter what.

See other posts:

Survival mode is not meant to be lived in

Chronic illness and self-identity

Chronic illness and self-compassion

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6 comments

  1. Acceptance of myself is one thing that I struggle with the most. Accepting the way that living with a chronic illness has changed me. Thank you for writing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! I believe we can really not have a good life, living it to the best of our ability within our limitations until we reach acceptance. You nailed this post. I could literally feel in my own life every point you made. Acceptance does not mean giving up! It’s kind of like we get to lead two lives in one lifetime! That is what helped me reach acceptance.~Kim

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your post is exactly what I needed to read right now. I am struggling with acceptance of Fibromyalgia, grief, and starting the disability process. Thank you for so eloquently writing this. It is the first of many that I have read on these topics and you are the first to make me feel reassured that I AM doing the right thing.

    Liked by 1 person

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