*The following post was written by Briana Taylor. Briana has a physical disability and has continued to pursue an active recovery from EDNOS for the past three years. She graduated from Villanova University this past May and is now working and living in Washington DC. She loves pizza, french fries and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in a grocery store and a young child has turned to their mother and asked, what’s wrong with her, why is she in that? By that they mean my wheelchair. Doctors have tinkered with my body aimlessly trying unsuccessfully to alleviate my constant physical pain. Their eyes tell me your case is hopeless. When I got sick with my Eating Disorder (ED) I struggled to find treatment at first because no one could accommodate my physical disability. I was too difficult, too involved, too broken.
Recovery is about returning your body to health. But what does recovery and body acceptance look like with a chronic illness? When the world sees you as broken, how do you learn to accept yourself?
Remember, your scars show strength. Every aliment brings forth a scar and that scar gives you a story to tell. If you’re reading this, consider it a blessing; you are alive, strong enough to be reading these words, brave enough to have face the world today. Congrats!
Focus on what your body CAN do. This is hard because most of the time the world will focus on your limitation if you have a chronic illness. The challenge for you is to focus on your ability. Focusing on your ability does not mean focusing on the strength of your appendages. Instead, try to focus on what you did today with your mind, words heart, or even your smile. Everyone has a heart and a smile, a little love and a smile can go a long way.
It’s okay to give your body break. The world constantly tells us to push ourselves the brink of exhaustion. We are told that we have to keep up with our classmates, coworkers and sometimes even complete strangers. But the truth is, it can be dangerous for those with chronic illnesses to functioning at such a high-speed pace constantly. I guess you could call this the ultimate definition of self-care. But for those with chronic illnesses remember, you don’t have to knit, paint take a bubble bath, or go for a run to practice self-care. Self-care can also be napping! So don’t be afraid to catch some Z’s, your help is more important than any deadline or social event.
Share your story. Do not be afraid to talk about your chronic illness in public, especially if it is invisible. People are often curious, but afraid to ask. Ignorance breeds misconceptions. If we teach our family, friends, coworkers and the world about our chronic illnesses, we can maybe be one step closer to teaching the world how to accept broken bodies. Even better, we are one step closer to teaching world that our bodies aren’t broken. And then maybe, just maybe we can believe it too.
We can change the world; but it must begin within ourselves.