Self Compassion

This is going to start off sounding a lot like Carrie Bradshaw, so you’ve been warned…

Tonight my little puppy Ella has an upset stomach, and I was fussing over her, giving her cuddles, and telling her it’d be ok, and I couldn’t help but wonder, why the hell couldn’t I treat myself with this much compassion and kindness?

It is so easy for me to dote all over someone else who is in pain, and yet, I’ve been suffering with a flare for months now, so incredibly unwell and not making any progress, only able to access self-loathing and disappointment.

I’m so frustrated with the fact that I can’t get better that I’ve turned against myself, rather than supporting myself. I’m actually working against what it is I’m seeking. How could I possibly get better and heal myself while continuously tearing myself down?

I’m suddenly reminded of a time many years ago when I was first diagnosed with a disease, which is a shocking experience, to say the least. I remember repeating that word over and over again – “disease, disease”. How could I have a disease? I’m only 20 years old. How strange and terrible and disconcerting. How the heck would I get better? Would I ever get better? Wait, there’s no cure? Doctors don’t fully understand the causes of autoimmune diseases? Then how the hell am I going to understand this and manage it, and live my life?

It was the summer after my third year of undergrad, which is the most gruelling year of mechanical engineering. I’d been stressed, working my ass off, and I’d suddenly had the emergence of all these symptoms. After numerous tests, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and began coming to terms with this new thing called an autoimmune disease. It was scary. I felt so alone. And while I was at home with my family, after about two weeks, the sentiments quickly turned from those of support and sympathy to those of frustration and anger.

My parent’s answer to how I should deal with this news of a lifelong diagnosis?
Suck it up, buttercup.
You’ve had two weeks to come to terms with it, now shut up, do the research to get better, and get on with it. We are done listening to your complaints and worries and concerns.

I felt completely alone. I’m lucky I had close friends from university and before, though they weren’t close geographically, I talked to them and had some support. But on the day-to-day I was alone, depressed and turned that negativity toward myself. It was clearly my own fault that I’d gotten sick – the stress I put on myself, the food I was eating, the lifestyle I was living. Like I’ve been told, it’s all on me. Shut up and deal with it. So I did. Didn’t speak a word of it to many people at all. So terrified of what they’d say to me if they found out. I can’t show weakness. I can’t be flawed.

And now, looking at how I’m faulting myself for my recent flare, and how I can’t find remission, I wonder what the hell I’m still doing with the thought patterns of self-loathing of ten years ago?

I wonder how easily and quickly I’d find better health if I was simply a little kinder to myself, a little more compassionate and understanding, and a little less judgemental. No more tearing myself down. No more blaming myself for a disease my genes activated. No more sucking it up and shutting up.

Time to be kind to myself.
Just like I would be to the people and puppies I love most.
Now that’s a radical thought.

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