When You Feel Like Chronic Illness Has Become Your Identity
When you work for or own a business, you typically develop what is called, a “signature line” at the bottom of the emails that you send to others. The signature line typically lets someone know what your name is, maybe your title or the name of your business, your phone number or web site and maybe even a marketing tagline. For instance, my business is Vital Signs and our tagline is: “Our Signs Sell Your Business”.
When I joined the Sjogren’s Syndrome online world forum a few years ago, the first thing that I noticed was that most of the members had a signature line. In those signature lines however, I noticed that each member listed ALL of their medical conditions and ALL of their medications. I mentioned this in one of my first blog posts as it struck me funny. It had the same emphatic smack as a first-time intro at a 12 step program. Hi. I’m SjoDry and I have ________, __________, __________, and I take: yuck, yuck & yuck.
My first reaction was Why? Why does anyone want to announce their medical history to others? After all, we are more than what plagues us, right?! I quickly learned that the rationale for this very specific signature line (and there is one) on the Sjogren’s forum, is because it helps the other members to know a bit about you. If a member is having a particular problem with symptoms or medication side effects, etc., having the knowledge displayed in their signature line will help the other forum members to suggest, or not suggest, certain solutions. More than that, it helps to be able to provide support to others when you see what their daily journey includes. In our very supportive online Sjoggie Forum, there are always others who have or are experiencing the same symptoms.
Are We Our Signature Lines?
So are we our signature lines? Does chronic illness become our identity? For some, I suppose it depends on which day or moment you are speaking with them. For many, if not most of us, the battle to NOT become hyper-focused on how badly we feel each day is as much a part of the daily war we fight, as our autoimmune and other afflictions are . I think I can speak for every person who has been the unfortunate recipient of an autoimmune condition or two or three. None of us would choose to painfully feel the way that we do each second, moment, and hour of each day, week, month or year & beyond. But the load gets heavy. On the one hand, I don’t want to burden others with my daily aches & pains..but on the other hand, I have not gotten any better at suffering in silence for years and years with no end in sight. Thank God for those people who love me enough to compassionately listen to me. A little venting with a kind ear helps give me/us the energy to keep fighting the good fight.
As some of you may recall, I also allow myself to have what I call, “my pity parties”. Of course, they have to happen on the weekends since I work full-time. My pity parties have boundaries. I allow myself one day or two at most. They usually involve me propping up on my bed, watching Lifetime or Hallmark movies; flipping through fluff magazines or gift catalogs & a suitable (to be determined by SjoDry) amount of chocolate or some other equally satisfying form of sugar. And yes, when I am feeling down, I can be especially self-absorbed, sad & neurotically focused on how bad I feel (as in po me). I do recognize this about myself & try to avoid others during these ultra non-productive “sjo-consumed” periods of time.
Like A Dog With It’s Favorite Chew Toy…
I refuse to let chronic illness win!! Like a dog with it’s favorite chew toy, I am hanging onto myself and to my ‘non-sickly’ identity as I have always known it. Because that is really who I am, no matter what my physical condition may be. Anyway, I still have work to do; people to love and spend time with; places to visit (Hello ROME Italy); fun to have; things to do that I have never experienced; Blessings to be grateful for, Blessings that I need to be to others and so many things that don’t have anything to do with symptoms or medications.
I’m not gonna lie, attitude is a big factor here. I have a choice to make every day! I can give into my intrusive illnesses and just curl up in a fetal position in bed & give up on life. Or I can choose to fight and accept whatever “new normal” may present itself on any given day. In other words, I will not let my signature line dictate who I am!!
Is it just me or do any of you feel like this?
Perhaps my new tagline should be: SjoDry and Determined!!
What does your tagline say?