Do you say “My arthritis”, “My multiple sclerosis”, or “My heart problem”?
If you have a Lyme disease diagnosis, do you call yourself a “Lymie”?
I remember when I was in the middle of my health crisis 14 years ago, I felt like I was losing my mind because so many things were going wrong with my body! The endless stream of symptoms meant that my sleep was affected, my emotions were affected, my ability to work was affected, and my relationships were affected. My life was turned upside down in every area and it felt very destabilizing.
When physical suffering goes on for years, you can lose your sense of identity as your disease consumes your entire life and can even become the filter through which you view your future.
You grieve the loss of your former healthy, happy self. Your personality feels like it’s changed and your social life has been negatively affected. When you look in the mirror, you barely recognize the person looking back at you.
The constant state of anxiety you find yourself in has your friends wondering what has happened to you.
They say things like, “But you don’t look sick!”
You know that they mean well, but comments like this only serve to cause even more emotional isolation. You don’t feel heard or understood by those that you love.
This causes human beings to crave validation. We long to be understood and loved unconditionally.
Looking for love and belonging, this may cause an individual to find their identity in their illness. This could look like blogging about their disease, or joining support groups and connecting with other people who have the same disease. Having connection and comradery with other people who understand what you are going through is typically when your identity and sense of belonging can get wrapped up in your condition.
The problem arises when your identity becomes your disease and you consciously or subconsciously resist getting well. You might say you want to get well, but you do not pursue those things required to put you on the path to wellness. Or you self-sabotage your efforts at getting healthy.
When your diagnosis becomes your identity, you are benefiting from your sickness in some way, whether that means you are getting love, attention, a sense of belonging, or sympathy. There is a good reason for you NOT to get well. And therefore, you won’t.
Living with chronic disease is challenging enough, but when you add the psychological motivations to stay sick on top of it, it makes it nearly impossible to break free from.
So the question to ask yourself is: “Has my sickness become my identity?”
We have worked with people with incurable or chronic diseases of all types and have seen them recover when they looked at their disease as a difficult season in their life- one that they were just passing though.
They did not see it as their final destination or their identity. They were willing to do the work—both physically and psychologically- to recover their health.
Having your identity wrapped up in your disease is one of the biggest factors that ultimately determines whether someone is able to get well or not.
IT’S THAT BIG OF A DEAL!
The human body is amazingly resilient. Sickness and disease no longer have to hold you hostage, but you have to decide that this is just a season in your life.
You have to be able to envision being healthy again. If you decide that your diagnosis is NOT your identity and you want us to show you the path back to health so you can be the person God created you to be, then we would love to help you get well.