Does Having an Illness Shield Who You Are? (Day25)

When having an illness, both mental or physical, it can create a huge impact on who you are as a person. Some things you have to give up and some things become part of a completely new routine. Having time or energy to really be yourself can be discarded and replaced with relentless exhaustion and irritability.

With any long term illness, it’s really difficult to know when good days and bad days are going to be- in fact it’s impossible. This makes it so hard to commit to doing anything, even with all the pre-planning in the world. As someone who loves to plan, it’s hard not having control and I feel overwhelmed with guilt when I have to cancel something for a reason I can’t change.

I think part of me is scared to show how vulnerable I really am and to let people in. Life is so different than it was a few years ago and I think I sometimes forget that. I worry wether people still think about me in the same way, or if they now just override all past memories with ‘the girl who’s always coughing’. I am still me and I still have my own personality so I really hope that’s not the case. I do however feel like my illness does not always allow my true personality and that can be tough.

I think for me, the worst part about a chronic illness is not being able to commit to being a good friend. Admittedly, I have a lot going on, but that’s no excuse to forget about my favourite people. I know I completely prevent myself from showing them how I actually feel so it can be hard for them to truly understand- I hope that people around me are able to forgive me for sometimes being a bit rubbish!

I am super lucky to have a few friends who can relate and have similar views to myself. Here is one of my lovely friends story about mental illness shielding her true self.

‘Whilst we are all encouraging others to talk about mental health, speak up about their own mental health problems and to realise it is important to talk to get the support you need, it is also incredibly hard to just speak out. Whilst this applies for mental and physical illnesses, the one that has mainly affected me is my mental health.

I would scream from the rooftops that people need to talk yet I admit I have shielded my OCD from others; made it so people didn’t actually know who I am because I couldn’t let them see the OCD side of me for fear of judgement. I created a blog and I was anonymous – that was my only way of speaking out and nobody knowing it was me. Looking back I think it would have been far easier to tell people about how my mental health affected me as a person instead of trying to cover it up. I became an expert at hiding my rituals and an even bigger expert at making up excuses as to why I had to do certain things. Anything to not link me to OCD. People probably thought I was a complete weirdo! Yet I thought the opposite, they’d find me more weird if they knew about my OCD.

Hiding who you are from others can affect relationships with family, friends, partners etc. most say that people should accept you for who you are but it is easier said than done. Part of my OCD was hoarding things for sentimental reasons, i’m not talking about the usual photos, memories that kinda thing I am meaning more pointless stuff for the sake of “this one time…”. Having to let someone in your home to witness all your stuff can be embarrassing. I don’t keep rubbish or gross things, but just stuff people wouldn’t deem necessary to keep. So my excuse always was “we’ve just moved house” even when we’d been living there 5 years or “we are in the middle of decorating”. Amuses me now to think that people would probably think that I had been decorating the same room for months on end and yet nothing in that room had changed. Sometimes you just have to laugh about these things else you’ll cry! Shielding who you are from others, especially when it is something that isn’t your fault and you don’t CHOOSE to be like, that is hard because it means you’re also not accepting yourself either, and I find that really sad.’

(Be sure to check out her blog: thegirlwithocd.com)

I completely agree that not feeling as though you are able to be yourself is awful. I have got so much better at accepting who I am and not being embarrassed of a tube in my arm or constantly coughing through silence. Self acceptance is the first step to being accepted by others and it took me a while to figure this out.

I admit that I might have strange habits or things which make me different from my peers but is that really something to be ashamed of? I decided that life is too short and unpredictable to be creating a false image of who I am, that’s kind of why I started this blog, to open up and accept myself. I definitely feel like I am more confident than I was a few years back and that’s great 😁

I hope everyone has a great weekend, whether celebrating Easter or not. Enjoy the sunshine and stay safe 💕

Ky x

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