Updated: May 12, 2021
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by Kiara Dijkstra
Hey everybody! I'm Kiara Dijkstra you can find me on instagram @chronically.m.e. I'm 19, from Australia and have CFS and Fibro:)
There’s been a lot going on in our world recently. 2020 was... it was a year. And with that I think a lot of us have learned how to be compassionate towards those who don’t belong to the same demographic as us. Especially, with Covid, towards those with chronic illnesses.
So, let’s talk about compassion. In my mind there are two types of compassion. There is compassion for others and compassion for yourself. Because this is a blog that mainly reaches people with chronic illnesses, I wanted to talk about compassion for yourself first.
It is so easy to internalise all the judgments and ableism that is around us. Reflecting those judgements in the way you talk to yourself. But I think it's really important to be compassionate and kind towards yourself. Your mind and the things that it tells you, you have to live with that. Although that sounds obvious, the way you talk to yourself can have drastic effects on your mental health.
Which brings us to this whole idea of self-care. Personally, I think it’s really important. The image we get of self-care is often glamourized bubble baths and face masks. But I think it goes a lot deeper than that, it's more about the way you talk to yourself. Taking the time to check in within yourself. Looking after your mental health and your physical well being, because you care about yourself. By the way, you're allowed to care, that's not selfish. It's simply having respect and kindness towards yourself. Recently I read a book about how to implement self-care and each suggestion evolved around the same idea that self-care is continually investing time and energy into helping yourself be the best person you can be, to realise your personal worth, and that you deserve to look after yourself and to be a priority.
I used to really detest my body and myself for having a chronic illness. The way I talked to myself reflected that, and that was really damaging for my mental health. Whenever I needed to rest, I would beat myself up by saying things like ‘I’m so lazy’ and I shouldn’t need to rest. Nobody else my age is resting.’ Sound familiar? Now I'm a lot more compassionate and a lot more kind to myself. Reminding myself it's okay to rest has really improved my pacing. Resting is what your body needs right now. Changing my thinking was super difficult, and I have to actively work on it still, but it’s made a massive difference to how I view myself.
We’re often told to look after ourselves, but aren’t supported when we try to do so. It’s so easy to be kind to other people while simultaneously talking down to ourselves and treating ourselves horribly. How can we be compassionate towards ourselves, practically? Compassion basically means to be empathetic, understanding and supportive of someone’s emotions and experiences. Having that same non-judgmental nature we reserve for family and friends towards ourselves. To me, it’s letting yourself feel your emotions without labeling them as good/bad, un/healthy or positive or negative. Allowing yourself to exist exactly as you are. Not being hard on yourself because of your condition. Another way to practice self-compassion is to do whatever is in your best interests. This can be the basics like eating and drinking well, taking medications, letting yourself rest and sleep according to need. Or going to the doctor, physio or whatever your health deems important. But it can also be protecting the interests of your mental health: not putting too much on your plate, asking for help, finding time to wind down, looking after your spirituality and connecting with supportive friends or family. Most importantly though, I think it’s listening to your body and spirit; giving yourself what you need.
Obviously, this seems really overwhelming. It definitely is for me; I still struggle with the ‘basic’ list. It's okay not to be perfect in your self-care. You don’t need to do everything. But finding something that works for you is important. Also, I feel the need to mention that you don’t have to do everything all at once, or every day. You can build it up slowly. I started with a good sleep hygiene and now I’m moving on to doing physio stretches once a week and attempting to eat breakfast every day. Self-compassion can look different for everyone. I alternate weeks of physio and counselling, and instead prioritise church attendance and meeting up with friends. Now I know not everyone has the luxuries I have in terms of being able to implement these techniques. I want you to know you are seen and valid. You do not need to feel guilty for doing what you need to do in order survive, pacing is a privilege.
A few affirmations to finish up:
You are worthy. You are enough.
You deserve to be looked after. Including looking after yourself.
You are not a burden.
You are loved and appreciated. And definitely not alone.
You are allowed to practice self-compassion.
Sincerely, Kiara Dijkstra/ @chronically.m.e
Full post reading by Jenni Pettican