Posted by: gaylejervis | February 7, 2011


Has your self-image been whittled away each year that you have been chronically ill? You are not alone if it has!!

Therefore, I have been looking at steps to a positive self -image to see whether they can be applied while ill.  You might enjoy referring to the following postings where I discussed the first three steps:  Take a self-image inventory, define personal goals and objectives and set realistic and measurable goals.

THE FOURTH STEP:  Confront Thinking Distortions. Initially I laughed out loud when I read this step.  Some of us confront thinking distortions on a daily basis when we succumb to what is commonly called Brain Fog!  Fortunately, I am not in that brain fog constantly anymore.  However, when it settles in, I can’t read a menu,  make simple decisions or as in last week’s situation, I can’t remember  the simplest things.  I didn’t want Greg to take the time to take me to the doctor and so I convinced him I could drive myself.  He didn’t feel quite as confident since I asked him several times for directions to a place I normally have no difficulty finding!  This brain fog can really undermine our self-image since we no longer feel confident doing what we used to take for granted.

We must acknowledge and accept that this brain fog does distort our thinking and we must wait patiently for the fog to lift! Over the years I have found my brain fog is worse when I become frustrated or anxious about it.  Sometimes I just quietly repeat, “Think Gayle!” and I can see the answer through my fog.  Other times it is better for me to just accept this brain fog as another physical manifestation of my illness and avoid activities that require much thinking when it worsens.  I have also learned to tell my husband, “You will have to make that decision for me.”  We now joke that he is the “Alpha Male” who will take care of me!

Beyond thinking distortions caused by our illness, we also need to be aware of  such thinking distortions as the “half empty glass rather than the half full glass” or “all or nothing mindset” that gets in the way of our contentment and our making wise decisions.

THE FIFTH STEP:  Identify Childhood Labels

It is difficult to do very much introspection when you are in a lot of pain, but it could still be helpful to ask the question:  Do I have any childhood labels that I have accepted and that is working against my living well while chronically ill?

Were you ever told that you “give up fast or that you are a “quitter?”  Obviously, this belief could impact you negatively while ill.  Or have you been told that you are shy and introverted?  This trait could prevent you from being pro-active while talking to the doctor!!  Have you been told that you are slow to learn – so that you don’t think you can  research your illness yourself rather than rely completely upon your doctor?  Do you have a great need to “fit in” and  to “conform”?  This could increase your pressures while chronically ill!!   Were you made to feel guilty as a child if you became ill?

THE SIXTH STEPStop Comparing Yourself to Others

This step is rather self-explanatory but rather challenging when you are sitting home by yourself imagining what others are doing!  We never seem to compare ourselves to people who are not living as fully.  Instead we compare ourselves to those who we perceives as  very productive, living that “abundant life”, and who are having so much more fun!!

A helpful exercise would be to write a list of what we think others have that we don’t have. Do we want their bodies, their holidays, their jobs, their ministries? I discovered that what I long for is their freedom!  I want to jump in the car, do some errands, meet a friend for lunch, run to Sobeys and pick up a few groceries, and still have some energy to go home and make supper.  Then I want to eat dinner and plan the evening’s activities!

As I have been considering this step, I thought how I may not have that independence, but do I possess something that they do not have?  Most likely if you are always busy,  you may not be as comfortable spending time in solitude.  I often realize at the end of the day that I haven’t even put on the radio and I am perfectly fine in silence.   Maybe I don’t want all of the busyness that goes with that freedom!

When we look at the list, there may be some things that  are no longer as important as we once thought. We may also realize that what is really important to us – such as our relationship with God, our spouses and our children  – we have been able to maintain throughout our illness and some of our comparisons are minor in comparison to that!

QUESTION: Do you have any thinking patterns, childhood labels and comparisons of yourself to others that is lowering your self-image and that is frustrating your ability to live well while chronically ill?



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