Some days are hard, and the past three days have been that way for me. I am exhausted and my heart rate is elevated. And while I’m getting used to dealing with these symptoms, the disappointment that comes with them doesn’t go away. It still hurts me to cancel plans and I don’t enjoy asking for help with simple tasks. It’s humbling to admit that I don’t have much control over how I feel from day to day.
I’ve worked hard over the years to develop personal freedom and independence. It’s been a real struggle for me to accept that I have a purpose that is not dependent on what I do or what others think. I’ve fought to hold onto the truth that I am worthy of love, even on my worst days. When I first met S, I was clear that I am a “strong and independent woman.” I must have said that phrase to him at least a dozen times before we even started dating because I needed him to know that I didn’t expect him to determine my self-worth. More importantly, I had to remind myself that while the relationships in my life are important, they do not take away my responsibility to love myself.
Over the past six months, I’ve told myself over and over it’s okay to ask for help. And I’ve realized that asking other people for help can be an act of self-care. If I choose to be without something I need because I won’t ask for help, then I am ignoring my responsibility to love myself. I wouldn’t want someone else go without what they need, and I can’t ignore my own needs, either. It may be humbling, but asking for help is especially important for me right now. At the same time, I have to remember there is an end to what other people can do for me. I can ask my loved ones to drive me to appointments, help me with errands, and sit with me over tea, but it’s unreasonable to expect them to take on the responsibilities I have to myself.
You see, no one else can convince me that my story matters. No one else can reach into the darkest parts of my soul and show me that I am beautiful, no matter what. I have to do that for myself. I firmly believe that compassionate people can help, but they cannot do the work for me. The most loving, helpful team of people cannot rescue me from the project of loving myself. They cannot force me to forgive myself for the mistakes that only I know about and they will never be able to repair the broken parts of my soul.
I am sharing this truth with you because I know that it’s hard to accept what you can’t change. It’s hard to live with chronic illness, shame or emotional pain. And it’s hard to admit that you don’t have it all together. But please, don’t let the difficulty scare you away from finding hope. Because there is always, always hope. There is hope for me on the days I cannot get out of bed and there is hope for you when you feel terribly alone. And when we find that hope and choose to love ourselves, hard days can still hold joy. The past few days have left me unable to do much outside of my bed, but I’ve still been able to find goodness in them. I’ve focused on my adorable cats, lasting friendships, fresh flowers, and kind husband. And I’ve celebrated the beautiful, abundant life I’ve created for myself. As difficult as illness can be sometimes, it can’t take away my joy or my self-love. I hope you will work to make the same true for yourself.