The thing about a chronic illness is that it wears you down emotionally as well as physically. When you first get sick or receive a diagnosis, you may receive a lot of support from friends, family, colleagues, and even acquaintances but as time wears on and you’re still coping with the same symptoms and the same limitations, support can start to dry up and then may disappear altogether.
That happens because to the rest of the world, it can look like you’re not working hard enough to “fix” your Hashimoto’s. We’ve heard it all before… just get more sleep! Just take this medicine! Just get up and get moving! Just stop eating this, and start eating that! As if it were that easy. Part of the problem is that people don’t understand that autoimmunity is not a one-size-fits all condition, and so maybe you’ve tried it all and then some but you’re still struggling.
It could be that those well-meaning but critical people in your life have read a few articles about people who’ve undergone miraculous transformations after a Hashimoto’s diagnosis. Maybe you’ve read those articles, too. The subjects of these profiles are thriving and so the big elephant-in-the-room question is, “Why aren’t you?”
But hold on just a minute… that’s a lot of pressure!!!
Why do you always need to be doing more? Why do you have to be an overnight success story? Why do you feel like a victim and why do others see you as weaker because you’re at the beginning or the mid-point of your journey and not at the end? Why can’t you just work toward health at your own pace and why aren’t people acknowledging how hard you’re working already?
Look at it this way: You’re here, you’re waking up each day and you’re doing what you can through fatigue and hurt and a whole menu of chronic symptoms that would drive most people crazy if they had to live with them day in and day out.
Maybe you’re also taking care of children – if you can’t run around with them, you read or watch a movie with them or give them all the cuddle time a little one could want. Maybe you’re still getting up and going to work and knocking down to-do list items on the daily because you have to or because you’re working on your dream. Or maybe you’ve reached a low point in your journey and you’re focusing on simply caring for yourself however you can and that’s okay, too.
Recently we were struck by this comment on our Facebook page:
‘I feel like our community gets a bad rep because we sound like we are always complaining – but that is not who we are. Our face is that of a survivor – every day we push through and survive all of the multiple pains and aches our disease throws at us. We are strong and we demand to be heard.‘
Looking at the world of Hashimoto’s from the outside, it does look like there’s a lot of grousing but frankly, we prefer to call it venting. Living with this autoimmune disease and then actively working to heal it within ourselves is HARD! We deserve compassion and sometimes the only place we’re going to find it is from someone who gets what it’s like.
That said, sometimes the least compassionate person in your life will be you. Even if you have a great deal of support, it may be your own voice that asks each day why you’re not doing more, trying more, being more, accomplishing more… and that’s the voice that’s going to wear you down more than any other. So here’s one of our favorite strategies for hushing your unsupportive, critical, unhelpful ‘victim voice’:
When you catch yourself thinking about yourself as anything less than strong… anything less than a survivor, step outside of yourself. Pretend you’re talking to a friend or someone you know in the Hashi community. What would you say to them? Not, “You’re so weak – why aren’t you doing more?” but rather, “You’re so strong. You’re overcoming huge challenges. You’ve got this. I believe in you.”
Like we said above, Hashimoto’s can definitely wear you down but it doesn’t have to wear you out. Take a few minutes each day to acknowledge all you are able to do even with autoimmunity being a part of your life, and it won’t be long before you realize you’re really not a victim.
Actually, you’re pretty amazing!