Defining My Illness Within Myself

Hi, my name is Sharon and I have Hashimoto’s disease. Hi, Sharon.

Hashimoto’s is only skimming the surface, as I continue to learn more about the myriad of health issues I have going on. Recently diagnosed with the underpinnings of the disease for quite some time. Genetic predisposition – check, environmental factors – check. Emotional stress, hormonal shifts and trauma – check, check, check. The perfect storm for my autoimmune system begin to attack my own body.

I can’t speak to what it’s like growing up with a chronic illness as part of your identity. Along for the ride at each developmental stage and life milestone. Ingrained within your sense of self in that way. Being “healthy” has always been part of me. I’ve never really been really sick, except for some very scary cancer scares made scarier by my family history.  I always thought I was pretty healthy in the connection between mind, body and spirit.

When I hashtag my instagram posts with things like “autoimmune warrior”, “thyroid disease” and “miscarriage survivor”, I stop and ask myself if this is really my life. Could it be that I’ve gone from spontaneous, traveler with a light heart to a sick person with a message? Turns out that this is my new world.  I was dropped right smack in the middle of it. Or it was dropped in the middle of me. I choose to move forward and evolve with a self-acceptance admittedly hard to find. The prospect of living with a disease has been foreign to me, and I’ve fought it hard. Yes, I’ve adapted to foreign environemtns in the past. Hence the living in Italy part. I picked to live here. I didn’t choose this little turn in my life at all! How could I be sick? Even my husband was in denial when we first found out, “But you eat so healthy and do yoga!”.  All the salads and namastes in the world couldn’t un-diagnose what will now be a lifelong illness I need to live with.

So how does one define an illness as part of a self concept? What’s its role? Which part does it get assigned? Is it possible that illness is just a portion of me that can be fragmented from the rest? Or is it a puzzle piece that contribute to my whole self? Without it now, maybe I wouldn’t feel complete. I am a relationship therapist at heart. So I help to assess and find solutions for the issues between people without assigning unbalanced blame on one party or another. It’s interesting to take an honest look the relationship between me and my illness. It can be dysfunctional to say the least! I blame it all the time, over and over again. There have been times when I’ve felt pure rage and resentment towards it. If I were to hold up a mirror and ask where these emotions may be directed, I’d find my answer. If I only acknowledge it when the symptoms are unbearable, in the form of beating it down, what am I missing? I would think that like in any relationship, health comes from the positives being recognized and communicated as well.

Hashimoto’s is part of who I am. If I hate it, I hate part of myself. If I curse it, I am beating myself down in a way. Does that mean that I celebrate it and all that it has brought to my life? There are days when I feel so angry at the situation that I don’t know what to do to reconcile it. I try to regroup by remembering that we are in this together. My body and I. We are not on opposing or even different teams. For awhile I found comfort in identifying this illness as outside of me. I’d explain my miscarriages as something “my body did “. It’s a coping skill that tried like hell to separate my illness from myself. It wasn’t long before my psychological fragmenting was challenged.

I reconcile all parts of myself with love and acceptance. I shy away from dualities in my identity and opt for the hybrid version of myself. My body isn’t perfect. I’m not the absolute epitome of emotional health. Being okay with that and feeling that’s enough is at the foundation of my relationship with my illness and self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharon is on a journey to live well with autoimmune disease in Italy. A therapist, wife, mother and creator of American Bulldog in Rome, she passionately channels personal and professional experiences to help others heal.

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