As I think back to the lessons learned over the past number of years, courtesy of my autoimmune disease, one I am particularly grateful for is learning to love myself through chronic illness.
I cannot emphasize enough how learning to love yourself through chronic illness will be a game changer in your wellness journey.
My Struggle to Love Myself
Loving and accepting myself is something that I struggled with for most of my life.
Further, I found self-love increasingly difficult as I battled health challenges.
At one point, on top of undiagnosed chronic illness, I was battling emotional trauma from a past experience as well as extreme stress from toxic relationships. I worked with a professional through the trauma, and learned to set healthy boundaries in all areas of my life.
The professional I worked with was truly amazing. She helped guide me through the process of learning to love myself. Further, she gave me tips for learning to love, accept, and honor myself exactly the way I am.
What Self Love Looks Like in My Life
Saying I “learned to love myself” may sound great and all, but how does that help you? What does that look like?
I wish I could tell you what it needs to look like for you. Unfortunately, what worked for me may not work for you.
I can only share my experience with learning to love myself through the highs and lows of chronic illness. It is my hope as I share the following experiences, it will spark an idea or inspiration for you that will help you learn to love yourself through chronic illness.
Allowing myself to feel it all.
Being diagnosed with autoimmune disease after years of health struggles, and then learning to live with chronic illness came with a whole oversized suitcase filled with emotions.
Most of those emotions I wanted nothing to do with.
My first instinct was to fight these emotions. However, I felt relief once I gave myself permission to feel each emotion. I realized it’s okay to not be okay. I mourned the loss of the old me. I mourned the way life used to be.
Then, I released each emotion, put on my big girl panties, and went to work on my health, nutrition, and lifestyle choices.
Do I still at times feel fear, disappointment, betrayal, anger, and sadness? Of course. One of all of those feelings are triggered with each autoimmune flare. I allow myself to ugly cry if needed, and feel it all, then I cling to faith, hope, and love for my imperfect self and imperfect body.
One of the tools that the professional I worked with taught me to use effectively was positive affirmations. Based on my situation, she gave me recommendations for positive affirmations and when to use them.
The trick for positive affirmations to be helpful, is they must ring true.
One of the positive affirmations recommended to me at first was “I love, honor, and accept myself exactly the way that I am.”
As sad as it is for me to admit, that did not ring true for me at that point in my life. However, changing the wording to “I am willing to love, honor, and accept myself exactly the way that I am,” did ring true. In time, as I grew to authentically love myself, I dropped the “I am willing.”
Allowing Myself Time to Take Care of Myself
One of the biggest ways I show love for myself is by allowing myself time to take care of myself.
Being a busy woman, wife, and mother, I used to put myself last. My days were filled with to-do’s that did not include self-care.
I simply justified that I did not have time to properly take care of myself.
Turns out I was wrong.
There is always time for self-care, but it is up to me to make it a priority. To put it on my to-do list.
“Learning to Love Myself” Self-Care Habits
I have a planner that I love. In it, there is a “positive habit maker” box where I list my daily self-care habits. Next to each habit, there is a box where I can check off after completing each habit.
My daily self-care habits include: gratitude (I keep a gratitude journal), meditate, exercise, oil pulling, dry brushing, yoga, victories (I keep a victories journal), and scripture study.
Most of these items only take a few minutes. Some I check off in the morning, and some I check off in the evening.
I feel my best when I check off all of these self-care habits. To me, that is how I show myself love.
However, most weeks, as I review my self-care habits box, I realize I fell short somewhere or everywhere.
Instead of beating myself up for falling short, I lovingly tell myself “it’s okay” and pick up where I left off.
Loving Myself is Easier When I am Well
Practicing self-love and self-care is easier to do when I am dotting all my i’s and crossing all my t’s when it comes to making healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices, and when I’m feeling well.
During times of wellness, I feel invincible. I feel like a super hero; like I personally conquered my arch rival – Hashimoto’s. I feel unstoppable.
Then, time passes, and I get busy.
Feeling overconfident, I rationalize that I do not have to dot all of my i’s, and it probably will not hurt to stop crossing those t’s.
Riding the Rollercoaster
Then, eventually, I feel it.
My nemesis, back again.
I feel Hashimoto’s. I feel it in my fatigue, and in my inability to think clearly. Cutting through the brain fog, I feel it there in my joints, and in my digestive tract, and wait, there it is in my freezing cold hands too.
Then it hits me.
I realize I did not permanently eradicate Hashimoto’s at all.
I simply quieted it for the time being.
And then another hit, but this time the hit feels a little harder than the last…. the fact that my Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease diagnosis is lifelong.
There is no cure. No magic pill. No easy way out.
It is something that I will always have to watch for.
It is something that I will always have to be aware of.
It is something that I will always have to be on the offensive against.
The realization feels heavy, and it weighs me down. But wait. Hold up. When I dig a little deeper, I realize that I do not have to fight it. In fact, that is the problem to begin with, right? The very definition of Hashimoto’s. My body, my immune system, is literally attacking and destroying my thyroid gland. I actually need to stop the attack; stop the fighting.
Then I remember the answer.
The answer is love.
When I choose to let go of negativity, and instead consciously choose each day to love and accept myself, my imperfect body in particular, that is when it is easiest for me to make healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices that heal and strengthen my body.
When I choose to love and accept my body, flaws and all, that is when I am sure to dot all of my i’s, cross all of my t’s, and discover more i’s to dot and t’s to cross that will help me to be the best, healthiest, happiest, most fulfilled version of me that I can be.
Love will help me be the best version of me I can be.
Finding a Loving Tribe
While talking on the phone with a friend who also has autoimmune disease, I felt gratitude as we began discussing the importance of loving ourselves and our bodies despite chronic illness.
While I’ve never met this friend in person, she is a ray of sunshine and oozes positivity, self-love, and acceptance. She shared with me how it did not come naturally for her, but how she learned to love herself through chronic illness.
As we ended our conversation, I felt gratitude for our new friendship. Further, my heart turned to all of the friendships I’ve developed over the past year through my chronic illness.
There truly is an incredible autoimmune tribe online that is ready to help you, support you, cheer you on, lift you up, and help you learn to love yourself through chronic illness.
“Healing cannot occur in the absence of self-love and compassion.”Unknown
I’ve Got Your Back
You do not have to navigate your chronic illness alone.
I am honored to walk this chronic illness path with you! Please know you can reach out to me through a comment on a blog post, an email, or a DM over on Instagram.
Also, I send out a weekly newsletter filled with wellness tips, exclusive content, motivation, and my newest blog posts. You can sign up here, and also download my free autoimmune protocol guide.
Where ever you live in the world, I am sending you love and support. I encourage you to learn to love yourself through chronic illness. Your body may feel broken at times, but you are worthy of all the love in this world.
From the bottom of my heart, please learn to love your imperfect body, and choose to not let your illness break your spirit.
How has self-love helped you in your wellness journey? Please comment and share – I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences!
“As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first, I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is ‘love of oneself.’”Charlie Chaplin