Feeling down: how chronic illness can effect your self esteem

I must admit that despite all my positivity and tenacity there are moments when illness gets the better of me and I feel miserable.

For all my coping mechanisms and hopeful strategies, frankly there are some days where I just want to curl up in bed and not bother with the world. However, it’s only natural to feel like this from time to time (particularly when you have an illness to wrangle with). Sometimes the sense of frustration we feel can be too much.

Passing through those sad days

I can manage the odd day with being crippled by self-doubt and sadness. This usually occurs when I am stuck at work and I just want to go home, lick my metaphorical wounds and start again the next day.

Sometimes though that heavy, purposeful sorrow just doesn’t lift from my heart, and I find myself thinking while exhausted in bed.

Why do I bother going into work each day when I am so tired and wracked with pain? No one appreciates my efforts. Who will miss me if I stay here? Everyone thinks I’m a let-down and pointless to have around.

I know in my heart of hearts these things aren’t true but illness makes it very hard to put these things into perspective rationally. My sadness and frustration chooses to bubble out of me (even now) with inner statements of profound frustration and sadness.

I don’t want people to see me when I am like that, and I don’t want to interact with people when I am like that, so it seems easier somehow to just stay away from people and wait it out. I shutdown, unable to put this vast diatribe of negativity in my head into words. Every sentence I have to speak aloud to another person is almost painful, like the noise in my head threatens to leak out of my mouth. I go quiet and hope no one notices.

I start to improve, but the thoughts lay in my mind and wake me as I asleep, forcing me to stay awake. I grow even more tired and restful in the day and the thoughts perpetuate and get worse.

Deconstructing those negative thoughts

When those moments pass I can look back at those thoughts and rethink them, take the edge of them and try not to get caught up on them again. We all have common negative thoughts and here’s the breakdown of mine.

Why do I bother going into work each day when I am so tired and wracked with pain?

I go into work (even when things are profoundly difficult) because working challenges and motivates me. It gives me a routine to give some stability to my illness. It surrounds me with people and gives me crucial social contact to help keep me going. It gives me the financial stability to do the things I really enjoy outside of work.

No one appreciates my efforts.

Some people may not appreciate my hard work, but the people I respect and work hard for will do. People often have subtle ways of showing their appreciation, and when you’re ill it becomes harder to spot and recognise when people are trying to be helpful to you, and it’s easier to perceive actions from people as attacks. The words “no one” are an exaggeration, and we’re all prone to exaggeration when we feel bad.

Who will miss me if I stay here?

If I caved in and stayed in bed every time I felt awful this would lead to more work for other members of my team, putting more pressure on each of them and making their working day more difficult. So while I might not be missed for one day I’m sure that wouldn’t always be the case. We’re less altruistic when we’re feeling down, we have to be focussed on ourselves so we can navigate through the difficulty of here and now.

Everyone thinks I’m a let-down and pointless to have around.

Has anyone actually ever said this to my face? Haven’t more people said how organised I am, and that they know if they ask me to do something it’ll get done? Given what people have actually shared to me about my illness, they’re usually impressed by how much I manage rather than how little I do. There’s more exaggeration with “let-down” and “pointless”. Isn’t the vast effort that I put into working each day almost always worth it? Doesn’t making a difference in my workplace improve my mood normally?

The vicious emotion circle

I suppose we all feel negative from time to time, because of the vicious circle of emotion that plagues us. For me bad days are a vicious cicle of doubt, anger and sadness.

I start to feel uncertain of myself, and then that changes into anger towards others, then because I feel powerless in the situation I start to feel sad, and the sentiment repeats over and over.

Then there’s the guilt of living with a chronic illness too. It’s these four emotions that wake me up in the dead of night sometimes and keep me awake, subconsciously drilling into my mind, even when I am not feeling that bad outwardly.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt though it’s that these feelings of powerlessness are not something that can be shaken off on a whim, it’s something we all have to step out of in our own time. My own normal stretches of sadness only last a few hours these days, where slowly my positive and rational part of my brain wins out, but it’s still horrible while it lasts. It just goes to show that even when you’ve come to terms with your illness and come to accept it as I have, there are days were you will feel burdened by its machinations on your self esteem.

I survive these by reminding myself that I’ve gotten through each and every occasion where this has happened in the past, I find my 100% success rate in surviving my moments of poor self-esteem extremely comforting and I hope you will too.

About endohope

My name is Michelle B. I've lived with endometriosis and Fibromyalgia for around a decade. I'm trying to live and work with both illnesses as best I can.

5 responses to “Feeling down: how chronic illness can effect your self esteem

  1. wow that’s amazing how you can help yourself like that, I need to try and do this more because when I get like this it can last days but I don’t have work to go to but I’m working to become self employed with the Prince’s Trust, so being self employed will mean I have to motivate myself and I will definitely follow your advice, thanks so much for this post xx

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