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How Low Can You Go?

I don't mean to brag, but a doctor once called me "a medical conundrum".

*flicks hair, flounces off*

This and many more, are the types of comments you might begin to take as compliments when you live with a chronic illness. Or maybe i'm just severely lacking in Self Esteem as well as Vitamin D? That's the subject of todays blog - the level at which our 'bar' can fall when we live with a chronic condition.

We all have a 'bar' - a level at which we will tolerate certain attitudes and behviours. Most of us like to think that bar is high; ("i want to do good and put kindness and love back into the world!"), but many of us have a decidedly lower bar; ("hear me out though, the Nazis had a lot of good ideas.."). We mostly try to live in accordance with our 'bar' - within the peramiters of what we deem acceptable and unacceptable, and what wider society has deemed unacceptable. Many of these 'bars' don't run in tandem with others; with some people it can feel we are playing a decidedly more difficult version of Limbo, where it keeps getting lower and we keep trying to keep up rather than tell them you don't want to play anymore and your lower back ACTUALLY REALLY HURTS OK.

Maybe that anaology doesnt work, you'll be the judge, but i suppose i'm just implying that everyones' idea of 'tolerable' is different - that depends on so many factors I dont have the time or pain relief to go into right now, but these tolerances can often ebb and flow with our own personal circumstances.

If we are a banker, born into excessive wealth, we might step over a homeless man without thought, for example. If we have known how it feels to have been in difficult circumstances, we might be more inclined to buy him a sandwich, perhaps. Kindness and empathy don't depend on our bank balance of course, but our upbringing and circumstances often have a huge bearing on what bar we set for ourselves.

If you live with a lifelong chronic or mental illness, (maybe you're even lucky enough to have both!), you will from time to time feel you should tolerate certain behaviours, or perhaps that you deserve to 'settle' in some aspects of your life due to your condition. You will set your sickly bar low. It's not what you should do of course, and I'm categorically not advising it, but you probably will. This often stems from feelings of growing isolation. The more time we spend sad, sore, alone with only our own (mostly negative) thoughts, the more chance of our self esteem and self worth dipping lower than a cheese fiend at a fondue party.

With an unpredictable and chronic condition, plans often have to altered or even cancelled at the last minute. We may have to leave events early, reschedule to suit hospital appointments and procedures, or advise that we are simply not well enough to do x, y or a. Or any of the rest of the alphabet for that matter. We often feel misunderstood and just too tired to explain what we feel or need.

But none of that means we should accept anything less than complete and transparent equality within all of our relationships.

Staying in situations we are uncomfortable with because we feel we should be 'lucky' just to have that job we hate, that friendship that leaves us feeling drained, or that relationship we know is toxic, is counterproductive and just plain silly. Wasting our precious time on discomfort is illogical. We already deal with so much pain and unhappiness within ourselves - why should we allow anyone to treat us lesser than, simply because this life has been foisted upon us? We didnt choose our illness, so why should we allow ourselves to be penalised for it?

Chronic illness is just an aspect of a patients' life. One facet of the whole diamond, which can at times admittidely feel overwhelming and all-consuming. In those moments we can break our backs trying to reach the bar others have set for us because we feel it's all that we deserve.

But our bar should always be high enough to confidently strut under.

We deserve the same emapthy, opportunities, love and kindness as any 'able-bodied' person; it's important to try and remember that whenever we start to feel our self-worth take a dip.

Essentially though, i'm just far too top-heavy to win a limbo contest, but we all have our reasons for raising the bar.

Kathleen NichollsComment